Wonderlick – Topless at the Arco Arena

Label: Rock Ridge Music
Rating: 4 Guns

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Written By: Darwin Green

Putting on the first track I had no idea what to expect. It’s so weird and off-the-wall that it might take several listens before one decides whether or not one actually likes it. But after listening to it a couple times, things start to make sense. The exuberant praise of a girl flashing an audience at a concert is perhaps the funniest but perhaps the best concept for a song, especially considering that it might play at a live show and might inspire people to lose their inhibitions in a way that matches the song’s inspiration. That’s when I began to love it.

The album as a whole takes the form of an intellectual and edgy sonic collage, similar in scope to something like The Avalanches’ “Since I Left You,” but more structured and pop-oriented, and more single-song based. It’s even less cohesive of an album then what, let’s say, Beck usually serves up, but skipping tracks here and there isn’t always a crime when the pay-off leads to songs like “King of Bad Decisions,” or “The Case Against Tattoos.” For fans of more exotic, bizarre, trip-hop experimentalism and weirdness (some songs make the Flaming Lips seem like backwards yokels), then this is the band for you. On some tracks it almost seems like the main singer channels INXS’s Michael Hutchence sometimes, but with the vocoder and autotune on the rest of the album the vocals tend to go everywhere.

The slowed-down, airy cover of the Clash’s “I Love Janie Jones” might baffle some Clash fans, but those who aren’t Clash fans and those who feel attuned to more of a Bob Marley lifestyle might love it. In style and texture I’m reminded more of Shwayze’s “Mary Jane,” a song no less complementary of its subject and alluding to no less a taboo in today’s world than Janie Jones does.

With some songs like, “This Song is a Commercial,” I can’t really tell if they’re mocking pop by using pop or if was truly a heartfelt attempt at a pop song, which makes it all the more interesting (the girl from the first song also makes an appearance here). The lyrics provide an interesting commentary on corporate music. Wonderlick also takes on the corporate world, or at least comments on it, with songs like “We Run the World,” “The CEO Considers…,” and “Devil Horns.”

With all experiments in any field, the thing to keep in mind is the fact that some things work and some things don’t. Listening to this album takes the listener on a pop-fueled trip into a sonic laboratory, with some mixtures blowing up and some just fizzling out. This all being said, this reviewer enjoyed the time spent in the lab called Wonderlick.

Like Wonderlick? Then you might like two parts Tricky, one part The Flaming Lips, two parts The Avalanches, and one part newer Kanye West, with maybe a dash of Beck.


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