Suffice it to say that Budapest One have a kitschy shtick that proves to be less than amusing after one listen to their latest album, This Town Just Gave You a Dreamer. Multiple hearings were had, but the virgin voyage proved to be the acid test that would seep into the return trips. So what is this shtick? Oh, you know, it's one of those "look at us, we've got this wild showmanship sort of angle and a not-so-bizarre sound that will still defy critics' attempts to pigeonhole us into some familiar territory" things. Oh yeah, it's all bad. It sounds like popped-up, hokey carnival muzak siphoned through a moonshine still.
Usually one can count on Texas rock and/or pop being generally above the excellent mark, but such is not the case here. Lead singer and guitarist Keith Killoren tries his best to sound like an over-emotive, soulful balladeer -- which he does, mind you -- but he does it so effectively that you just wish the guy would shut up and sing at least one song on the album in some semblance of a normal voice. Instead, he sounds like a cross between Royston Langdon of former Spacehog fame and Elvis Costello of current across the board fame.
In fact, Budapest One sounds like they're just trying too damn hard to pull off a lot of Elvis Costello's quirkier pop moments throughout this album. Chad Stockslager's piano work chimes in on many of the tracks here, and one is instantly reminded of former Attraction Steve Nieve's tickling of the eighty-eights, but in Budapest One's hands, every song washes the same. Same warm, analog, homegrown sound, same tastefully played guitars backed with tastefully touched piano. It's so tasteful it's downright tasteless. As if Woody Allen's grandmother came by and put everything through the infamous de-flavorizer.
Keith Killoren looks completely bored on the cover of the album, and that's pretty much the way the listener is going to come away after hearing it. There's undoubtedly supposed to be something rustic and pure here in the likes of such ersatz ethnic-tinged drama as "Signal for the Assassins", but instead it merely sounds like a lot of hoo-ha underneath all the important-with-a-capital-I trappings. Same goes for the likes of such dreck as "The 'Bully' Song", which feels like it's never going to end under Killoren's sleep-inducing story lines and suffocating vocal delivery, and "The Crooner Rides Again", which may as well serve as some kind of ironic truth-telling composition.
The one song here that did seem good at first, "Fresh Strawberries", even got annoying with repeated plays. Can Killoren not just deliver a song in a straightforward fashion without trying to sound like the evil love child of Robert Goulet and Elvis Presley? It doesn't seem to be that way, as he continues to take it over the top on nauseating fare such as "Baby Loves the Senator" and "Gypsy of Budapest". The one saving grace there is "Preacher's Words", where the vocals are handled by Chad Stockslager. Had he been the crooner of this album, things may have turned out differently.
But one song is not enough to recommend an album, and therefore This Town Just Gave You a Dreamer and the guilty party that constitutes Budapest One shall not even be given a passing grade. This is pop schlock at its worst; the kind of lousy music that overrated groups like Wilco manage to inspire unknown groups to record. And though this is Budapest One's third release, it may as well be the first. Give up while you're neck and neck with other groups doing this sound, boys. It'd be a long shot to assume you'd ever get ahead of them.