Remember Freezepops? Your mom would make you eat them on the front stoop because you would end up with the melted snack all over you. Then you got too old for them and felt ridiculous squeezing the little plastic tube for some frozen sugar water. I bet, though, if someone handed you one right now, on a muggy summer evening, you would love it, and you wouldn't care how silly you felt.
And so it is (you're probably guessing) with Freezepop. A few notes into Fancy Ultra-Fresh, the band's second full length, and I was worried. This album had the potential to be a big Europop bomb, but I couldn't resist the fun anymore than I can resist a Flavorice during a typcial Virginia summer. This Freezepop album is a new summer classic.
Fancy Ultra-Fresh's money track, "I Am Not Your Gameboy", begins with some old-fashioned Speak 'N Spell computer vocals before Liz Enthusiasm kicks in with her girl-power message: "Don't play with me / I'm not your toy. / Oh, can't you see / I am not your Gameboy". The in-joke relies on the fact that, at least according to the band, people often ask the members of Freezepop if they've made their music on a Gameboy. They haven't, but it's not surprising if people think they have. The blips and bops are Tetris-sounding, the group's music has appeared on PlayStation2 games, and Freezepop's primary instrument, the Yamaha QY-70, looks quite a bit like a portable video game device. As dopey as "I Am Not Your Gameboy" comes across, the song maintains a fun level of goofy strength throughout. The lyrics center on a woman telling a man to treat her with respect. While the message isn't novel or overwhelming, its pop coating makes it enjoyable and actually more striking. It also contains some of the album's best humor, including the juvenile lyric "Don't push that cartridge inside me". The joke's childish, but the follow-up reveals grown-up fortitude: "I'll push back, just wait and see".
"Chess King" takes a cutting look at that youth fashion and romance scene that too few of us grow out of. The narrator (the Other Sean T. Drinkwater, a clone of the "original") tries to put the moves on another member of the mallie fashion elite. His offer is to "do anything, to be [her] Chess King". He'll even "wear anything" if his beloved will take him. The irony of Freezepop's delivery hinges on the idea that the ultimate appeal to a consumer (of love, of mall sytle) would be malleability and spinelessness. Freezepop simply but charmingly connects American consumerism to the vacancy of an empty lover. The setting of the song is precise, and the music perfectly matches what I heard the last time I walked past an Abercrombie & Fitch. I'm wondering which mall store will pick this up for their soundtrack first, neglecting the satire.
Freezepop does have a pretty serious flaw, which is that when the songs are serious, the band's sound seems out of place. "Outer Space" and "Duct Tape My Heart" fail without the poppy beat and toungue-in-cheek lyrics. The group doesn't seem able to carry attempts at genuine emotion. Enthusiasm's flat delivery, so effective on the rest of the album, sounds listless with these lyrics. When she gets to lines like "You're so dreamy, you're so sweet", she sounds more like an unintended caricature rather than someone smoothly playing with convention.
Freezepop's sound doesn't change much throughout Fancy Ultra-Fresh (except for the slower serious songs) and the steadiness could be viewed as a bit of a shortcoming. On the other hand, the beats are so catchy and 90% of the lyrics are so fun that the group really has no reason to break from its sound. This synthpop is catchy, danceable, and entertaining. Plus, the album's got a great cover of the theme from Jem. There -- now Freezepop's officially taken you from childhood television through adolescent mall intrigue to wherever you are right now, which I hope is dancing around your front porch with a sticky freezepop in each hand.