Artist: POP ETC
Album: POP ETC
Label: Rough Trade Records
Wait! What the fuck?
I obviously missed the memo. It took me five full (and uncomfortable) spins of the self titled POP ETC album to discover that they were the artists formerly known as The Morning Benders. Upon realizing this, I’ve come to the conclusion that someone has some God damn explaining to do. How exactly does a band go from sounding like The Shins to being mistaken for Owl City (true story) in one release? Is this a marketing ploy? Have they been getting high on the same bath salts that caused the 2012 zombie outbreak in the Southern regions of North America? Was this band the bastard lovechild of Imogen Heap and Lights, forced to be swept under the rug due to the current government’s intolerance of gay rights? Are they fans of Andy Kauffman? Or is this really just the result of a change in name and a tight grasp on an “Autotune for Dummies” book drunkenly purchased from ebay.
Sure, I get it. I see where the industry is right now; stuck somewhere between Justin Beiber’s purple hoodie and emo bangs and Goyte’s endlessly blasted song about being thrown out with the trash by Kimbra. Why not cash in on the pocketbooks of the 16 year olds working summer jobs at American Apparel? After all, it is record sales not substance that matters in music these days, correct? At least that’s what every asshole with the internet, blogging from their mom’s basement has slapped me in the face with when I question a band’s success. The notes, sounds, and lyrics of this album are simply secondary. Don’t get me wrong, I refuse to question a band’s intentions. It is absolutely possible that this sound is where their lives have taken them. Maybe they’re happy. Maybe this is the next evolution of their sound. Maybe this is their version of the great fuck you to the music snobs. However, I have a hard time understanding how that is possible.
My main beef with the album centers around the vocals of Chris Chu. With all sincerity I have no criticism of Chu’s real voice. It is crisp, rich, and beautiful. This is well documented in the catalog The Morning Benders left behind. So, simple logic would lean towards the side of reason, correct? Generally speaking, you stick with what works, right? Not so in the music industry. Instead, you grab the most obnoxious of hip-hop trends and make it the face of rock. Man, Kurt Cobain would be so proud. To play devil’s advocate, if you’re into computer generated, throw away trash-pop, POP ETC might be up your alley. The pure joy I gathered from picturing the same demographic who spends their weekend bumping Drake in their drop tops also spinning the artists formerly responsible for “Big Echo” was worth the time invested in the listen.
However, as much as I want to stand up and applaud Chu and company for manning up and doing whatever the fuck they want with their craft, I will not. I would hate for them to confuse this with encouragement.
Review written by: Joshua Hammond