Last week’s monthly netmeeting of the Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin T-shirt Collectors Anonymous (SSLYBYTSCA) ended up being rather bittersweet. While the announcement that the new album, “Fly By Wire” would also be accompanied by 3 (three!) new t-shirt designs obviously sent hearts a-fluttering, nay racing, the news was tempered somewhat by the news that founding member John Roberts Cardwell had left the band to concentrate on his oft neglected side project “Scotus“. With the need for a strong Judical branch to act as a counterweight to the imperial tendencies of the Executive branch and the utter fuckwittery of the Legislative branch notwithstanding, the departure of J-Ro (as nobody has ever called him) was greeted with tears and disbelief by the members of the SSLYBYTSCA.
Bebban (Oslo, 9 t-shirts) lamented the strong melodic awareness that J-Ro brought to the songwriting. Stefan (Namibia, 5) felt that the ability of the twin front-men to trade instruments and songs throughout the set was one of the highlights of the excellent live show. Sarah (KC area, 10) merely thought he was the cutest. Mikhail (Segezha, ??) felt that he had destroyed the only chance for Russia to transition peacefully from totalitarianism to a functioning democracy by nurturing the rise of a kleptocratic oligarchy that enriched itself through the privatization of state-sponsored industries, while the proletariat suffered under misguided austerity policies including usurious interest rates, the destruction of the welfare state and hyperinflation. Others on the Skype call felt that the loss of such a key member surely meant the end of the band, and ergo, the end of official SSLYBY t-shirt releases to be snapped up by the SSLYBYTSCA, snatching away from us our raison d’etre, our joie de vivre, and quite possibly our habeas corpus.
There was silence on the call, broken only by gentle sobbing and the sound of several cans of Budweiser being tipped. There was also something that sounded like a door slamming open, heavy snow-covered boots approaching, anguished screaming and muffled gunfire, but that might have just been interference on the line. Apart from that there were no problems with the clarity of sound or video on the call and I would give it a 4-star rating.
Of course it fell to the ever- sangfroid, Moist Graffiti (Houston, 11) to point out that the end of SSLYBY would have a minor added side benefit of an increase in the price of those first edition, mint condition threads that the members of the SSLYBYTSCA had been hoarding over the years…
There was an uncomfortable shifting of mood over the tubes, a slight hint of shame, guilt and opportunism digitally transmitted across the globe and beamed into space as a series of 1s and 0s, with the occasional 2 thrown in, because lets face it, programmers are only human after all. There was the faintest crackle of a shrink-wrapped package being smoothed, the rustle of a second browser window being opened and pointed toward SSLYB-Bay.
In the end we voted down the motion begging JRo to rejoin the band, and adjourned the meeting. Besides, it was getting late, and the Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin Slashfic Authors netmeeting was starting soon and most of us needed to freshen up before it started…
However, if you wanted to keep up with the latest goings on in the worlds of SSLYBYTSCA and SSLYBYSFA you’d be on our bulletin boards: you came to Moist Graffiti for the vocabulary-expanding expositions on popular culture and the folk songs of our times. Your real question, the red-hot flame of inquiry at the heart of your transcendent soul is crying out what, WHAT pray tell does the new SSLYBY album sound like?!? How in the name of all things unholy have you gotten 7 sodding paragraphs into a review without once mentioning what in the holy hell the new album sounds like???
To which, gentle reader, we respond with all due deference – What, are you fucking shitting me? It’s a Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin album. It’s awesome. It’s a gentle mixture of shiny indie-pop and harmonizing acoustic guitar balladry. In short, it sounds pretty much like each of the other 3 Someone Still Loves you Boris Yeltsin proper albums and 1 oddities and rarities collection. If you like those, you will like this. If not, then I heard the new The Weeknd album is great and you should go check that out…
The previous three SSLYBY albums had formed a nice progression. Broom is a masterpiece of bedroom pop. The fully-formed but gloriously lo-fi nugget that got teh internets’s panties in a wad back in 2005. Pershing was the sound of the band growing more comfortable in their skin and outgrowing their studio limitations and freshman concerns. It was relentlessly tuneful, jammed full of earworms and showed that the band had survived the breathless blogosphere hype cycle, and were here to stay. Let It Sway completed the progression from the first two albums. It gleams with confidence. It loudly rocks out. The lyrics move from the whispered doubts of Broom to the exuberance of “Was he cool like me? No way!”. This is the sound of a band having fun, in command of their talents and sound and not afraid to poke fun at themselves and the ridiculousness of being in a band. They toured the world and even made it to Russia as part of a cultural exchange. Surely the (rather small and insular) world of indie-pop was at their feet?
So where on this upward trajectory does Fly By Wire sit? Well, it sounds like the departure of J-Ro has somewhat knocked the wind out of their sails. FBW is a return to the sound, and the mindset of Broom. The album was recorded back in the same home studio, although with the added benefit of a decade of music biz experience (and technology progression), this seems like a rather moot comparison to make. The songs here are beautifully produced. Phil has said the band was aiming to create more space in the songs, and they have definitely achieved this, without having to play the dreaded “stripped down” card. Rather, the tunes have room to breathe, with “Lucky Young” in particular benefiting from the less-is-more approach. The lyrics too have evolved, or rather devolved somewhat as well. Where LIS dripped confidence, FBW seems less sure of itself. Words occasionally struggle to fit into the measures; the guy doesn’t get the girl; the rhyming couplets sometimes don’t. How much of this is intentional remains to be seen. The loss of a major songwriter always has an effect on a band. And although Phil and Will have by all accounts written and recorded this album with remarkable speed, there is always a learning curve whereby you don’t realize how much you’ve come to depend on someone that was with you for so long. Hey, that sounds like a pretty good subject for a song!
Overall FBW slips snugly into the warm and powerful SSLYBY catalog. It is unlikely to win over any critics, although it may win back those who were dismayed by the rockier elements of LIS. The ardent members of the SSLYBYTSCA just hope that there will be more releases in the future to look forward to, both of sartorial and auditory variety…
Moist Graffiti Rating
Trail-blazing originality: 33.35
Jangly politeness: 82.28
Warmth, charm and breathing space: 99.15
BY approval rating when he left office: +2
Departure of J-Ro: -3