REVIEW: Armoured Bearcub

Before we begin, I recorded a brief message on a subject relevant to today’s last week’s two week’s ago’s [BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA I WAS SO YOUNG AND NAIVE] proceedings.  Here is the relevant link.

I’m glad we were able to share that moment together. Also, there’s this.

You know… in case anyone wanted a peanut.

So, let’s get right down to it – I’m gonna review The White Album by Armoured Bearcub. Now, Armoured Bearcub is NOT a wizard rock band, and has nothing to do with wizard rock whatsoever, except for the fact that both of its members come from wizard rock bands, are highly involved members of the wizard rock community, and they’re doing… something… today [LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL]. I believe it involves rice.  Thus, I am taking the opportunity to review an album I’ve wanted to for quite some time now. Yes it’s not wrock – and quite frankly, you can deal with it. I know you can. I BELIEVE IN YOU.

Armoured Bearcub’s (oh, that’s Matt/Whompy and Lauren from The Moaning Myrtles, in case you were the one person reading this who didn’t already know. Hi, Jeff! Save me a seat at the next Fire Dept meeting!) first album represents more than just a duo’s first foray into the world of music together, it’s testing grounds to see just how viable wrockers will be commercially when they move on from wrock, or at least branch out.  While The White Album (the title is cute, by the way) is not the first such album released, it was the first that encapsulated this question so thoroughly. As such, TWA plays heavily to its audience.  While both Matt and Lauren first became known in this community for making music about one particular subject, they have now branched out into making music about every other subject that you like.  What I’m saying is that they are the Comic-Con of the wrock fandom.

Now, you all brought your Things Harry Potter Fans Like Bingo cards, right?  We start the album off with a double-whammy, “In Which Buffy Slays Edward”, so mark off both “Joss Whedon” and “Hating On Twilight” on your scorecards.  It’s the best possible way they could have started off this album, scoring instant points with the vast majority of listeners, and it doesn’t help that, musically speaking, it’s a pretty darn good song too, and easily the catchiest song on the album (“Peeing In A Bottle” is up there too, but I don’t really wanna give top billing to it because it’s a parody).  While we had previously heard Lauren do back-up for Matt-centric vocal pieces previously on Demons at the Helm, this time Lauren carries the whole piece while Matt joins her on the very catchy chorus, and I gotta say, it works quite well, and better than I would have expected.  Matt and Lauren’s voices complement each other very well, both ways.

We’ve heard Matt’s soaked-in-whiskey-and-tobacco voice brightened up a bit and give more harmonic resonance by Lauren’s voice multiple times before, and it’s a real treat to hear Lauren’s voice given sonic texturing and depth by Matt’s this time around.  The whole album is acoustic, and there really isn’t too much to say about the instrumentation for any of the songs – the guitar/ukelele work is above competent, but there’s nothing really flashy.  Now, that’s not a complaint – this allows for the blending of Matt and Lauren’s voices, and the lyrics to take center stage, and enhances the sort of feel of having two friends over for coffee, and they happen to play a few songs for you.  And your friends also happen to be polar bears.  That said, there is some nice faux-percussion added by that cool toneless strumming effect in the third and final chorus that adds to the fun and catchiness of the song.

Now, you may have noticed that contrary to form, I have thus far focused on the music and paid little attention to the lyrics, whereas most of my articles are bound to leave one with the impression that I’m reviewing HP-inspired poetry with a strange number of fans.  This is actually not because there are any problems with the lyrics, but there really isn’t a lot to say about them.  Despite the title, it’s not really a Buffy song at all – she’s just mentioned in the first verse, and caps the chorus, so if you went into this song hoping for musical fanfiction of a blow-by-blow account of Buffy’s execution of Edward Cullen, then you’re going to leave kinda disappointed, but I’m not sure that would have accomplished anything.  And while part of me would like a bit more time spent on contrasting Buffy and Bella, that might have left the song feeling schizophrenic, unless they made it an entirely different song.  No, this is pretty much just an anti-Twilight song, and there really isn’t too much to say about that besides:

I mean, the song sets up solid arguments against, and makes solid jokes at the expense of, the Twilight franchise in general, and the bizarre idolatry of, well, this guy, and I can’t say too much more than that.  However, there is a particularly clever line near the beginning of the song that deserves a special mention:

Only when Edward calls Bella his drug
Is she any sort of heroine

The fact that the last word is later rhymed with “Joss Whedon” makes the above line even awesomer.  Moving on!

“Peeing In A Bottle” is hands down the best song on the album, and I always feel kinda awkward saying that about parodies, because I feel like that can sometimes come across as devaluing all of the original melodic content in the rest of the album.  Still, this song accomplishes the rare feat of being hilarious to both devoted Nerdfighters/John Green devotees, and to people who only know of John Green as the former defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles, AND both camps will find the song funny for very similar reasons: because an in-depth retelling/defense of a young man sticking the head of his penis in the top of an empty beer bottle while inside of a moving vehicle, filling said beer bottle with his urine, and disposing of it through the car’s window, causing it to land in a major freeway is FUCKING HILARIOUS.

The fact that this is all told using the melody and structure of a Christina Agueilera song just heightens the humour value.  Musically, “Genie in a Bottle”, while not necessarily a good song, does have its moments and is well-constructed – making it acoustic and sonically (no, not like that) simplifying it makes the song a hell of a lot more bearable, and that’s even before you make the lyrics, you know, actually good.  Lauren is on hand to do the hooks, but for the most part Matt sings Christina Aguilera’s part, which gets especially funny during the Dramatic Semi-Spoken Word portions of the song. Also, when Lauren and Matt are singing together this time, instead of one backing the other, they’re just singing together, mixed perfectly.  This effect is used sparingly to accent the titular line in the song, but it works really, really well.

As for the lyrics, again I can’t say too much – there’s not really any super clever lyrical twists, so there’s not really anything I can highlight and talk about, and the lyrics aren’t bad – they’re very, very good, and quite funny, but that leaves me in the situation of either just posting the lyrics to the whole damn song, or explaining each joke, which, trust me, you DON’T want.  Suffice it to say that they are quite humorous. You should laugh at them. With them.  Near them.  Preposition them.  Whatever.  Oooh, also, a fun game to play with this song is trying to figure out ways to replace the bit in the chorus where it goes

I’m your best friend in a pinch

But I’ve got the bladder of a finch

but still keeping the meaning of the lyrics exactly the same.  Really, it’s a contest to see who has the best internal database of monsoyllabically-named small woodland animals.  The best ones that me and my mates have come up with are “I’m your best friend till the end / But I’ve got the bladder of a wren” and “I’m your best friend through and through / But I’ve got the bladder of a shrew”.  I’m also fond of “I’m your best friend you can bet / But I’ve got the bladder of a Fett“, but the matter of how exactly Boba even goes to the bathroom with that armor on is disputably canonical at best.

So, we had the Lauren-carried song, we had the Matt-carried song, and now it’s time for the duet!  And now the subject matter is The Hunger Games series, specifically, The Hunger Games (i.e. the only good one).  The series in question being the average Harry Potter fans’ third favorite series of books (second if you don’t count John Green’s books), it’s a safe bet for a subject matter, especially for an album that’s essentially musical fanservice for People Who Like Harry Potter And Wizard Rock But Sometimes Want To Listen To Songs That Are Nerdy But Are Also About Things That Are Not Harry Potter.  “We’re On Fire”, despite being a song whose title implies that it should be a lot funnier and a lot shorter, is thematically the best

[And that’s where we cut off. The best WHAT, past me? God, past me is such a lazy nooksucker.  That’s a pretty good line though, about the immolation. I made myself chuckle. God, I’m wonderful.  Okay so this was originally going to be a wedding present of sorts – and I was going to give it a good grade, partly because of the aforementioned present thing, but mostly because it’s really a very good album. In fact, my only real complaints with the album have to do with the method of delivery, and I was just not going to mention them because they are irrelevant to the actual music. Long story short, the dropcards only contained high quality audio files, and if you’re like me, you’re constantly trying to fit as much music as possible onto your 2 gig iPod, so high quality shit isn’t so great.  But nbd.

As for the rest of the album, it’s good.  The chorus of “Lee Scoresby’s Last Stand” is super catchy, “Seth and Summer” is fairly engaging for a song about a show I’ve never had any interest in. “Nargles in the Mistletoe” is a little mystifying in its inclusion – it’s okay guys, you didn’t NEED to put a wrock song in there.  It’s okay.  I think the biggest thing for me is that there’s no Matt on this at all, so it just sounds like a Devil’s Snare or whatever song that ended up on this collab album, and I’d love to hear “Nargles” with Matt’s lower register backing it up on the chorus, I think that could be very sonically interesting. “A Born Again Christian Upon Reading The Da Vinci Code” is a really good song with great lyrics, a highly hummable melody, and the harmonies at the end with the Hare Khrisna’s are absolutely beautiful. I contend that the title is inaccurate, because when most fundamentalist born-agains aren’t persuadable by even the most rigorous of logic and the most impassioned of pathos, I doubt a fairly decent popcorn book is going to completely change their minds on something.  But seriously, the ending minute or so is fucking beautiful, and the best musical moment of the album (with some sections of “We’re On Fire” coming in second and oh shit I never finished talking about that one).

As for “We’re On Fire”, the lyrics REALLY get the characters, more so than even the damn author seemed to get the characters in the later books.  Moreover, I’m a sucker for good acting in the vocals in songs – you know, when the singer isn’t just singing about angst, but it’s coming through so clear in the voice that the lyrics could be about penguins playing beach ball with some happy clams and you could still tell that the singer is riddled with more angst than Batman’s parents are riddled with bullets.  And that is here in spades (vocal acting, not dead parents, or bullets):

It was all for the games wasn’t it?

Peeta, I just saved our lives

You never meant it did you?

I did what it took to stay alive

You can hear the absolute weariness in Lauren’s voice here, and it’s perfect.  “Let’s Get Our Masters Degrees In Love” is catchy, the rhyme scheme is fun, and it’s sappy as all hell, and thusly makes for a nice way to end the album.  “The White Album”, while no “White Album”, is still an album, with some white on the cover, and thus gets a passing grade from me.  And then I was gonna make some clever analogy between this collaborative effort and the collaborative effort that is a marriage, and it was gonna be ill.

So ill. You don’t even know dude.  Anyway, yeah, “The White Album” is good shit and you should check it out.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tawni
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 22:40:11

    Mr. Snob: I wish you’d write more often. Also I just need to keep track of your tumblr (I don’t know how to use them, I’m way too old) and find you on twitter. Because although the “scene” is still plenty alive if you’re connected, and we still have house shows and stuff, with Wrockstock being done it’s just kind of sad, and it’s nice to know there are other people who still love the music. And talking about it. And you, my friend, talk about it (when you do) at length, which is so lovely because I’m very word-oriented.

    I also wanted to say thank you for saving my daughter at WS ’10 (or was it ’11? The one you were at.). She was then just 12 or 13, and almost fell into the bonfire, and you grabbed her and saved her from a certain fiery death or at least a disfiguring (but potentially amusing to someone who’s not her mom) flaming run around the fire ring. I was going to corner you at the airport to say thanks in person but thought you were still trying to be incognito at that point.

    So anyway, thanks. For saving my daughter from fire-y agony, and for all the really great reviews and discussions you’ve generated. I’ve no idea what you’re up to in your non-wrock-writing life, but I hope it’s awesome.

    Reply

  2. jigsawxxxx
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 10:19:27

    I just today ran into your blog, and I was reading some of the older articles, particularly the best songs and bands and such. It sort of motivated me to begin my own blog, doing a lot of the same stuff you do, only without hating on Ministry of Magic as much. I wanted to inform you not so you would pay attention to me, or anything like that, but so as you wouldn’t think I’m trying to steal your ideas and use them behind your back. I do like this blog, and I hope to see more wizard rock posts up soon. Hope this finds you well – Jigsaw

    Reply

    • wrocksnob
      Nov 29, 2012 @ 21:05:41

      Though I wasn’t very good at it, I have always encouraged others to do their own reviews of wizard rock. I never claimed to be the ultimate authority on wrock, but some people kind of assumed I did, purely because THERE WAS NO ONE ELSE OUT THERE CONSISTENTLY DOING REVIEWS. And I wasn’t even consistent! EVER! So, yeah, I am SUPER PROUD that I motivated someone to start their own wrock review blog. Good luck!

      Reply

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