Sometimes, deep inside the tall, mysterious stack of new jewel cases that balances precariously near the edge of the reviewer's desk, there lies a hidden gem, a musical surprise that elicits smiles on first listen and upon further examination gets the official "happy discovery" assignation. Hindurodeo's sophomore effort, Nalladaloobr, is one such find, a fantastic 13-song collection steeped in tuneful cynicism that dares you to go ahead and love it.
Hindurodeo champions the disaffected card-carrying intellectual elite of power-pop, a moniker sadly no longer even remotely connected to the term "popular". These songs manage to tout this latest generation coming of age in the new millennium while at the same time poking fun at them. Songwriter, bassist, lead vocalist, and main creative force Joel Sayles does this in a convincing manner, his acerbic vitriol filtered through pleasant, well-crafted songs that sport melody, harmony, and infectious hooks.
With seven years between records, there was plenty of time to create fine music -- and Nalladaloobr delivers the goods. Each track has its merits. Sayles hooks up again with bandmates Dirk Freymuth (guitar) and Jimi Englund (drums) to create pretty sounds that often camouflage the message of malcontent.
The CD opens with "World Go Round", a sort of pessimistic universal disclaimer dressed up with a driving guitar chorus: "As soon as you start you're finished / As soon as you're up you're down / As soon as something's in sight / I'm sure that nothing goes right / I'm watching my world go around". The track features a great lead from Freymuth, and gives a nice display of Sayles's vocal range.
Doing a group bio of Hindurodeo is made redundant by the swift song "Radio Ready". Joel introduces all three members, then explains the ethos behind the group: "We're radio ready / We're thoroughly modern / A veritable kamikaze squadron of top ten hits headed to the bottom". No surfeit of optimism here folks, just confessions of arrogance, conceit, and failure -- hard to believe in light of the song's magnetic appeal, clever wordplay, harmonies, hooks, and fine electric sitar lead.
With "I Get Ahead of Myself", Sayles gets to show off his skills as a bass player. The bass lines are the glue holding together this very infectious tune, and the lead vocals play a great counterpoint to the harmonies in the chorus. Our impatient narrator puts cart before horse time and again: "I learn how to speak / I've nothing to say / Then I'm brokering the peace and taking all the guns away".
Many of these songs are short and sweet, yet full to the brim with complex thoughts and wonderfully nimble imagery. This certainly is the case with "Each Day", clocking in at under 2 minutes, yet capable of such verbal pictures as this: "Each moment is the mangy mutt whose master is Chrissy Hynde / And I'm the desperate downstairs Korean chef short one special of the night".
The next two songs hold our complacent American lives up to scrutiny. First there's the "radio ready" strains of "McLife", in which it's made plain how our fast-food agenda has extended far beyond the golden arches: "I don't ever dream / I live the McLie / I learn to McLive / now I guess I'll McDie". This is a cute bit of tuneful censure, easy to swallow with a smile. I guess you could say "I'm lovin' it".
Next is the haunting "American People", which is quick to point out the dichotomies inherent in this land of the free, home of the brave (e.g., "American people need love, American people preach hate"). The statements, oft contradictory, are presented one upon another without comment or judgment, testament to the wide realm of identities that encompass us as a nation.
One of my favorites (and there are many here) is the catchy pseudo-ska ballad "Somebody's Eyes". Here, we're reminded of life's limitations and given an ultimate hint of hope that maybe we can skate above the fray: "You can be sure that all the experts with their new hypotheses / Will search their brain just to explain why something won't be / We're always disappointing / We're always undermined / We're always gonna be looking for something we can't find".
Writing delectable pop nuggets seems to come easy for Sayles. "Pledge" is another of these, a musical stand against the forced influence of others. "Dumb It Down" is the age-old dilemma, quality diluted for the younger masses presented as a universal truth, though there's plenty of tongue in cheek: "They say you can't go wrong / They say you won't go broke / When you underestimate your average common folk / You better dumb it down / the bottom of the bottom is the common ground".
One of the more emotionally true songs I've heard in recent years is "Band with My Dad", all about a senior stuck in a band with his dad, and faced with the realization that he can't abandon him: "He kinda seems out of place / He's playing 'Wipeout' 'til he's blue in the face / I can't ask him to quit / He owns all the gear and the rehearsal space". There's love and family loyalty at play, and that comes across magically.
The smart, privileged, and bored kid in "Any Other Way" wallows while "waiting for the whole world to roar / My genius you proclaim". Still, this nice guitar-laced tune informs us he "wouldn't want it any other way". Similarly, the couch potato in the pleasant "Another Monday" is eager to get his life in order, it being a new work week and all: "The slate is clean / I'm ready to engage / I'm pretty sure that someday I'll cast away the guilt / Get some confidence built / And accept what I really am".
The CD closes with the rocking brutal truth of "Strip Bar". Here, that seedy environ is seen for the pathetic place it is, the sexually frustrated getting further sexually frustrated and trying to fool themselves into the lie of it all: "She knows she won't / You're sure she will / So you ply her with your crisp one-dollar bill / Reminding her that you're the world's greatest lover".
The production values add to the overall picture: the sound is crisp and clear, serving the music well. Sayles might be a witty, funny wiseass -- but he writes some phenomenal music. In a just world, Hindurodeo would get the kind of wide commercial coverage they deserve. Instead, lesser musical brethren reap the rewards of the hype machine, while these smart boys remain an obscure treat.
Each time I listen to Nalladaloobr, it never fails to bring a smile to my face. Sayles, Freymuth, and Englund are gifted, even if their song messages seem more than a bit jaded and anchored in self-deprecation. I urge you to get this previously hidden treasure yourself: give it a listen, make the happy musical discovery, and share the smiles it brings.