PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Keller Williams: Laugh

Jason Thompson

Keller Williams

Laugh

Label: Sci Fidelity
US Release Date: 2002-02-19
Amazon
iTunes

Upon first receiving Keller Williams' latest album Laugh, I was initially won over by the humorous songs, tasty guitar work, and funky jazz treatments offered up by Williams and his buddies Dave Watts and Tye North. But repeated listens only managed to draw attention to the worst aspects of Keller Williams - namely the same things that I originally liked about the album. Laugh is a bit too slick and smirking for its own good.

Not to mention that it's just too damn long as well. There are 15 tracks here, and the disc pushes its 74-minute limits. It's fine and all if someone actually has over an hour's worth of music to listen to, but artists rarely do these days and Williams is no exception. The bloated Laugh is another example of an album in search of an editor. And while Keller's guitar picking/slapping/strumming is indeed a marvel to hear the first time, his fretboard acrobatics become as interesting as Yngwie Malmsteen's classical extrapolations of heavy metal guitar after four songs.

It's that intricate slapping and picking that opens up the album on "Freeker By The Speaker", another one of those "humorous" exposes on the dance club scene as witnessed by the outsider looking in. Hearing Williams funk it up and sing lines about ravers such as "Rave girl with a lollipop binky / And a face full of metal / Her eyes as wide as a truck / And somebody just floored the pedal" elicits the sought after laughs the first time around, but hearing it a second or third just makes one feel that it's nothing but another tired laugh at an easy target.

Such is the problem with a few of the other songs on Laugh. The second track, "One Hit Wonder" is as unfunny and obvious as you'd probably expect from a song with that sort of title. Like the ravers who got skewered in the previous tune, Williams goes for the throat of those who aren't knotting up their fingers in wasted chords. "A simple little ditty / With a catchy little hook / And three cowboy chords / That you learn from a book / I'll pierce both my eyeballs / And cut and dye my hair / And I'll do what I am told until I disappear into thin air." Again, Williams goes for the worn-out easy targets here that many other and wittier artists have tackled countless times before.

Williams' attempts at social humor remind me of the great band Thrillcat whose terrific album Oneword released in the early '90s did everything Keller wants to do here, but much more effectively and musically to boot. But that was then and this is now and Williams is offering up fare such as "Bob Rules", an ode to Bob Barker and The Price Is Right that makes one yearn for "Weird Al" Yankovic, and "Vabeeotchay" -- a song about Virginia Beach that misses its intended funny bone as well. The biggest problem with Williams' lyrics is they aren't half as clever as he thinks they are. It's almost as if he's too cute for his own good, as a song like "Gallivanting" and its extended use of alliteration makes clear. "Appetite for applesauce / Abrasions applaud / An arachnid the acrobat / On the angry aromatic Arafat" is just the start, as Keller continues this pace alphabetically through to the letter g, per verse. How charming.

Elsewhere, there are instrumentals that wear out their welcome ("Hunting Charlie", "Mental Instra" -- another bad idea, "God Is My Palm Pilot"), a cover of Ani Difranco's "Freakshow", and the "Freeker Reprise" to close the album that clocks in at just over 16 minutes. If you can make it to the halfway mark on Laugh, then good luck. The attention span needed for this album isn't worth bothering to find as Williams plays out his tricks within the first three songs.

It's ironic that an album that is so obviously made to be laughed along with, smiled to, and well liked is so utterly boring. Or perhaps it isn't at all. Williams seriously needs to cut back on the all-you-can-eat aspects of his albums and turn them into leaner, meaner works that don't lose their intended edge and purpose before the first quarter of the album is over. Laugh could have very well been a fun and funky album, but instead it's a sprawling, charmless work that will probably find a niche audience and not much else.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.