In one of my favorite Simpsons episodes Homer changes his name to Max Power. “Great name” another character says to which Homer replies, “Yeah isn’t it. I got it off a hair dryer.” It’s simple genius. I got the same feeling of encountering simple genius when I started listening to the three-piece New Zealand slack-pop outfit Lawnmaster’s brand new record Bad Entertainer. It’s proof that members Ken Double, Allan Street and John McDonald are masters of their craft, which is lo-fi pop tunes in the vein of Pavement and Big Star.
Though these bands may seem at opposite ends of the musical spectrum, one thing that unites them, and thus Lawnmaster, is that they write super catchy songs but don’t do so in the conventional way, not only with sugar baited hooks, but with a combination of sometimes funny, sometimes serious lyrics, and chord progressions that stay in you like a virus you can’t shake. In other words they make you think.
Bad Entertainer is chock full of lo-fi head bobbing tunes. “You were the best/The best at making someone think the best is yet to come,” front man Ken Double states with a cheeky aplomb on the album’s opener “Please Don't” a stripped down yet melodically full slice of clean jangle pop. Next comes “Go to Auckland” a pounding deluge of power pop replete with handclaps and a punchy chorus.
On “Disneyland” Lawnmaster slows down the pace but keeps up the rock with wailing guitars over which Double somberly sings about the happiest place on earth. Lawnmaster hits a beautiful pop-fervent stride on “Bowels of Me” which contains one of the damn catchiest guitar riffs you’ll here anywhere ever. “Nobody Gets the Blues No More” with its wanking heavy metal solos and tongue in cheek lyrics seems a direct ode to Malkmus and Co. as does the jaunty rocker “Down the Ladders and Up the Snakes.”
With Bad Entertainer Lawnmaster has added an enjoyable pop record to the world’s cannon, which is nothing new of course, though I doubt Lawnmaster ever set out to break new ground in the rock and pop world. They’re too smart for that. The real genius behind Bad Entertainer is its perfect balance between the catchy and the kitschy with neither of these elements coming on too strong. If you don’t like this Bad Entertainer, you don’t like music.
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