Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bee More Ironic

I don't think rock critic Brent DiCrescenzo knows much about The Bird and the Bee, judging from this review of their forthcoming tribute to Hall & Oates, Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates:

That ridiculous title reads like a thesis paper, as if the writers of “Maneater” were Manet. Coming from this dedicated lounge-pop duo, it’s meant without a trace of irony. Thankfully, this cover album is far more quirky and playful than academic, turning blue-eyed soul smashes into chirpy little music-box numbers.

Most who tackle soft-rock classics crank up the volume, as if to validate cheese with more pungent notes for more sophisticated palates. The Bird and the Bee head the opposite way, pulling Hall & Oates’s sugary tunes into fluffy cotton candy. Brainy elevator music, really. Washes of groovy Moogs, bleeps and bloops gurgle under Inara George’s breathy, if straightforward renditions of ubiquitous hits like “She’s Gone” and “I Can’t Go for That,” giving off the vibe of Stereolab jamming on toy instruments. There’s one original, “Heard It on the Radio,” which bounces along on rubbery bass and canned electric guitars like some lost credit roll from Mannequin 2: On the Move. But like Oates without a mustache, it’s hard to see the point.
I'm glad the review mentioned Stereolab so that my google alert picked it up, without which I might never have found it. Nothing else in the review gladdens me, but since I bravely embrace the assumption that rock critic Brent DiCrescenzo doesn't care about gladdening me, I will move forward and try to dig a little deeper. (I only said I'd try.)

Little effort is needed, really, to see the problem. If I read rock critic Brent DiCrescenzo's first sentence correctly, he is claiming that the Bird and the Bee is blind to the irony of titling a tribute album to Hall & Oates as Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates. There are a few ways to re-read that claim with emphasis, each of them calling attention to something outrageously ill-considered about the claim:
  • The Bird and the Bee is blind to the irony of titling a tribute album to Hall & Oates as Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates: this version fails to recognize that The Bird and the Bee was awash in irony in its every public presentation long before this tribute album. To be exact, The Bird and the Bee trade in a sort of self-aware irony that perfectly fits a tribute album to a slightly schlocky 80's pop act -- there is a dash of derision mixed with genuine tribute in their work beyond and apart from this new album. It's what they do. It's their thing.
  • The Bird and the Bee is blind to the irony of titling a tribute album to Hall & Oates as Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates: this version just insults The Bird and the Bee by suggesting that, yes, maybe they know their way around irony and maybe they don't, but they don't seem to appreciate the cultural cachet of Hall & Oates. I mean, of all the tribute albums to make, they make one for Hall & Oates! Ha!
  • The Bird and the Bee is blind to the irony of titling a tribute album to Hall & Oates as Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates: this version combines the worst of the first two by refusing to perceive that The Bird and the Bee granted its tribute album such a grandiose title precisely to ratchet up the irony.
Note to rock critic Brent DiCrescenzo: this will be an ironic tribute album to Hall & Oates. If "ironic tribute album" smashes atoms in your head in a confusing and discomfiting way, you're on your way to getting the idea.

I look forward to it, and hope we can expect future volumes in the series from The Bird and the Bee.

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