Monday, November 1, 2010

Review from the Archives - The Terrordactyls

I haven't listened to his album much in the since two or three years ago when I wrote this review. Perhaps I should for I remember it fondly.

Imagine if as a very young boy Da Vinci was given blunt-tipped scissors, construction paper, glitter, pipe cleaners and gobs of paste. The result would likely hint at the genius of things to come while basking in the simplicity and innocence of childhood. Such is the music of The Terrordactyls and their debut self-titled album.

Listening to this album gives you the impression of being allowed to join in with old friends as they sit around and play cherished songs from their past, not unlike listening to albums by Ed’s Redeeming Qualities. Hollow acoustic guitars, toy pianos, invigorating two part vocal harmonies and enchanting two part kazoo harmonies all come together to form instant childhood memories overflowing with joy and melancholy.

“Zombie Girl” finds them opining over “the awesomist girl in my school” with whistling, kazoos, and a smattering of French, making the brief two minute song sheer perfection of irony with English lyrics such as “You have no nose / But that’s okay / You can hide treasures / Inside your brain.” “Facelift” is another weird sad tale of a girl with no face, plus robots and Black & Decker power tools. Instantly appealing with amazing vocal harmonies and a brief electric guitar solo this song packs a massive punch in 1:34, similar to the kind of friendly yet twisted humor They Might Be Giants used to exhibit. You’ve never heard a better toy piano solo than in “Decoration Daniel” where impressive lyrics such as “He’ll decorate the zit / On your pretty face” and “You’re the magic in his marker” are backed with a breezy melody, simple strummed guitar, and crisp hand claps. The band duets with Kimya Dawson on “Devices”, a charming duet of rushed lyrics and kazoos, a song so sweet that when you hear “You and I are meant for each other” you believe it. Incidentally this song was included on the soundtrack for the indie hit Juno and it succinctly captures the relationship of the two young leads. While nearly all of the fourteen songs are memorable, one final zinger is “Fall” where a sugary melody is offset by lyrics such as “Shoot me in the face / I’ll shoot you in the face / See which one of us / Can shoot the other in the most accurate place.” It gets more macabre from there but it’s such a happy, silly song that you can’t help singing along.

A cousin to bands like Danielson Famile, the focus is on songwriting and feel instead of studio perfection. The Terrordactyls sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom and this intimacy and lo-fi nature is part of its appeal. The Nuevo-folksy songs are filled with clever wordplay and the giddy feeling of summer vacation. Rediscover a new old friend.

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