When I was younger, my enjoyment of CDs depended directly upon their running times. The first CD I ever owned was Bryan Adams’ Waking up the Neighbours (don’t blame me–it was a Christmas gift). The sticker on the front cover proclaimed that it was a whopping 74 minutes long. Suddenly, my CD-length expectations were bloated. I wanted songs to run for five minutes, and I wanted each album to contain 15 songs. Bon Jovi CDs and others stuck to my incredibly high requirements.
As an adult, the rules have changed. I’ve learned to praise brevity. Bands are often chided for including “filler” songs. But why do I care? Isn’t the skip button included on stereos in order that I am able to, let’s say, skip inferior songs? It’s not like watching a movie, in which skipped scenes detract from a linear storyline. Songs aren’t vital to an album, so why complain when a few aren’t worth my time? Get Set Go’s new CD confronts these ideas. Mike TV wrote 64 songs for the album. Twenty-one made the final cut, clocking in at almost 80 minutes. With all the songs, there’s definitely something for everyone. There’s also way too much for anyone.
Ordinary World is part 69 Love Songs, part Eels. The folksy arrangements and morose subject matter (even Mike TV’s vocals and fake name) reflect the Eels’ work. The glut of songs and recurring subject matter provides the Magnetic Fields comparison. With so many songs, broken into indistinguishable Parts I-IV, the set is overwhelming. Pair this with lyrics confronting alcoholism, suicide, human depravity, etc., all in a humorous manner, and you’ve got one hell of an album listening experience.
TV covers his subjects with unnerving levity. Pair the words, “She never talks to anyone / She hides away, abhors the sun / She keeps her heart within a box / Protected with one hundred locks”, with the upbeat accompanying music, and all seriousness nearly fades. Mostly the songs, rehashing the same ideas repeatedly, aren’t excellent. They’re good; they’re often better than good, but something about the 21 songs is tedious.
For instance, “I Hate Everyone” is sometimes clever, but by the end, the refrain of “And the people in the East / And the people I hate least / And the people in the West / And the people I like best” is tiresome. Such a clever concept that includes interesting verses suffers from overkill. Of course, how can an 80-minute CD not suffer from overkill? Parts II and III are the best sections of songs. They begin with “Lift Me Up” and include one of the great ditties about world destruction, “Do Over”. It stomps along with country-style piano and guitar licks. Fit for Hee-Haw, apart from the lyrics and message, the song is as smart and catchy as Get Set Go can be: “The world is all fucked up, my friends / As bad as it’s ever been / And some day soon the world is gonna end / And we’ll begin again”. TV repeats “do over” with Simon and Garfunkel-worthy do do dos. Part III furthers this juxtaposition between pop music and difficult subject matter. Mostly, it succeeds brilliantly.
Part IV leads listener into murky territory, or should I say, off the cliff and into oncoming traffic while swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills. The songs included are “Suicide”, “Stay Away”, “So You’re Gonna Die”, “Die, Motherfucker, Die”, and “Music Makes Me Wanna Die”. Oddly, most are the same up-tempo sing-alongs as earlier tracks.
This is a superb collection of songs. Of course, there are too many. Of course, the album is too long. Of course, TV treats some of his serious subject matters with a flippant attitude. But there’s so much right with this album that the little things can be easily overlooked. For every repetition, there are countless intelligent lyrics and memorable hooks. Make sure your stereo’s skip button is working and indulge in a little guilt-free suicide and alcoholism.