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Music

Here Comes Everybody: Astronauts

Jason Thompson

Here Comes Everybody

Astronauts

Label: Refrigerator
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Aside from the mellowed-out cover of Gary Numan's "Are 'Friends' Electric?" on There Goes Everybody's Astronauts, there's not a whole lot to really recommend spinning this disc. Oh, the band is fine at what it does, but underneath the singer-songwriter lyrics and pop melodies, the album doesn't dig too deep. At best, we're left to deal with songs whose words sound half-finished and melodies that haven't been done better elsewhere.

Comprised of Rene Ormae-Jarmer on keyboards, percussion, and vocals, Michael Jarmer on drums and lead vocals, and Justin Clarke on bass and vocals (and who must not be a permanent member, as he's nowhere to be found on the members section of the band's website), Here Comes Everybody produce a piano/keyboard driven experience that draws comparisons to Ben Folds Five at times, but no one would ever mistake the two in a blindfold test.

Rene's keyboard playing is fine, but rarely does it bother to engage the listener beyond its rather elementary approach. You listen to her work and get the feeling she could be doing such much fore with her instrument, but most of the time it sounds as though she had a halfway decent musical idea but didn't develop it any further beyond the first draft. Same goes for Michael's lyrics that sounds more like the first thing someone puts down on paper when writing words to their songs that might not be the best thing to go with and could be better if reworked a couple times.

Such weak noodlings plague songs like "Sing My Song" in which Michael muses "I'm not having any of your talk / I'm not sharing this old candy bar / Let me sing my song / I'll just sing my own damn song". Fine, but I'm not sure anyone's listening. Throughout the songs on Astronauts, one gets the feeling that Michael Jarmer is trying his damndest to play the singer-songwriter card, but he's no Randy Newman or Carole King, and he doesn't come close to being Ben Folds on his worst day (of which there have been many).

In fact, the songs are burdened with too much sentimentality that it's hard to imagine too many listeners really giving a damn. Jarmer sings about his deceased grandfather in the light "It's a Buick", but can only come up with such observations as "It's been a strange, sad year / But the Buick is going to drive me around now / It's been a damned strange year / Hope I make it safely home" that really don't seem to fit. So it's a strange year, but why? You never get the answers, only that the car is "a Buick, Buick Le Sabre".

Elsewhere, Jarmer works out such skeletal droppings as "Who knows what will happen to us? / Who knows what made me this way? / That whole thing came down on top of us" on "Some Sunday". He also seems to have a bit of a "to hell with the world" attitude throughout the album. Fine to be angry, but Jarmer's mopey and ultimately emotionless singing deep-sixes any attempts at serious moodiness here. In "Self Help" he moans "I pour my bowl of cereal / And then the box, well, it speaks to me / It tells me how to live/ It tells me what to give a shit about / And I scream and shout", and in "Losing My Good Things" we're treated to the thrills of "I'm good and angry / And I don't give a damn who sees my paintings". Ah the struggling artist motif. Doesn't work here at all. Next.

Another musical problem on Astronauts is where the hell is the bass? Justin Clarke's instrument seems all but absent most of the time, leaving us to hear a rather sparse and uninteresting mix of electric keyboard and drums. The production could have been a lot better on this album, and the mix beefed up at least two notches. But such is the case with this work. At best, Here Comes Everybody have a decent but unimaginative professional demo on their hands. At worst, they have 10 so-so original songs and one pretty good cover. The bottom line is that Astronauts, while not completely disposable, certainly doesn't have enough going on inside it to warrant more than a couple listens. Maybe next time.

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