Taking their name from a character on the hit 1990s Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats, party-pop champions Reptar have released what is sure to be their first of many long-players for Vagrant Records. The group’s infectious and always-danceable music has earned them opening spots for Foster the People and other notable acts over the past couple of years, and Body Faucet provides plenty of justification for these honors and others surely to be given in the future.
First, though, a caveat: Some listeners might find the baby-talk vocals of lead singer Graham Ulicny hard to tolerate. The singer’s playful vocal manipulations seem consistent with the band’s goofy demeanor, but the singer’s oscillation between over-enunciating the simplest of words with the garbled babble of other lyrics makes for a hesitant first listen to the record.
Although Body Faucet is certainly entertaining throughout, it isn’t hard to imagine that the band spent more time naming the record and some of its songs (“Orifice Origami”, anyone?) than attempting to perfect the many pop hooks found on the group’s 2011 debut EP, Oblangle Fizz Y’all, which, even after several listens of Body Faucet, will stand up as the stronger release. Juxtaposed against their earlier effort, the songs on Reptar’s latest are much more sonically vast – although not as interesting or enduring. The album’s middle songs (“Natural Bridge”, “Ghost Bike”, and “New House”) aren’t likely to be favorites for those who give the record a full, linear listen. These songs are a bit too long and don’t quite master the celebratory sing-along choruses found on the band’s earlier release.
The album’s catchiest track, “Houseboat Babies” begins with a sitar melody reminiscent of a George Harrison solo tune before being punctuated by heavy bass synthesizers and moving into soundscapes that the quaint Beatle would surely find too weird for even his most exploratory records. But where more pop traditionalists like Harrison would (or couldn’t) go, Reptar explore with enthusiasm. The track is representative of the album as a whole: A variety of bizarre instrumentation collides with staccato rhythms and mostly nonsensical lyrics. Not an appetizing concoction described in language, but definitely enjoyable to the ears (and feet – they will almost certainly be tapping by the end of the song).
The comparisons of Reptar to Talking Heads that can be frequently overhead in coffeeshops and read in print around the group’s hometown of Athens, Georgia gain a bit more credence on Body Faucet. Not only does the group rely on instrumentation of which David Byrne would almost certainly approve (The album is peppered with horns and exotic percussion throughout), the song “Sweet Sipping Soda” could pass for an anachronistic outtake from Fear of Music. The song’s pounding rhythm includes a combination of gongs, video-game sound effects, and funky basslines that are sure to please even the most traditional fans of whatever generic territory the Talking Heads charted in the decades before the members of Reptar were even born.
Other tracks cohere with the electronic foundation found throughout the album, but their lyrical content often goes in various directions, ranging from the absurd to the soul-crushingly earnest. When Ulicny sings “I don’t want to lose you / I don’t want to let you go / We fit together so well / Folds into folds” on the minimalist track “Three Shining Suns”, it is hard to hold one’s attention on the song’s sincerity. The song is endearing, but in the context of the non-sense permeating the whole record (not to mention that the album’s title must be some under-intellectualized euphemism for a penis), the sincerity of the track loses some of its emotional gravitas.
Although Body Faucet is a bit inconsistent (perhaps because of its length – it clocks in at over an hour of material, but feels like more), the record is a brave and fairly fantastic debut that will surely grab the attention of those who give it a chance.