The one-man-band of Chris Willie Williams, who runs the high-quality Disclaimer Music Review Archive. If you want his albums (and you should!), bug him, not me. My review of his debut was a self-contained thing, so I'll just let that serve as the introduction.
lineup: Chris Willie Williams (everything)
review index: Bombs by Night, Balloons by Morning / The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss
Best songs: Your Bird is Going to Fly Away, Five Mile Hill, The Imaginary Thing, Billy Morgan
Worst songs: Why Are They Laughing?, Similar to Sugar Pill
As I've stated before, I'll review the music made by you, the reader. All you have to do is send me your discography on CD, vinyl, cassette, or CD-R (mp3s are fine, as long as they're at least 128k). I can't guarantee a good review, but I'll give it a fair listen, and I promise not to be as abrasive as I am with people that actually have record contracts and sell millions of albums.
Which brings us to Disclaimer, the project spearheaded by Chris "Willie" Williams. He has some obvious strengths: a good ear for melody, inventive lyrics, a bag of neat lo-fi production tricks, and competency on guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums. His singing is rather generic but at least it's in tune and he doesn't have a cringe-inducing voice.
I guess individual songs might be worth mentioning now. I'd listen to the uptempo indie-pop strains of "Your Bird is Going to Fly Away" and "Five Mile Hill" any day, and "The Imaginary Thing" has a kind of Guided By Voices vibe to it -- probably due to the echoey vocals. The producer cap goes on when Disclaimer covers "Life in Detail" (by Robert Palmer?!), which dissolves into a bunch of noise that sounds like the CD is skipping, which turns out to be the basis for the next song, "The Decipherment of Linear B". Then of course there's "Clockwork Drudgery", featuring some electronic percussion that sounds like low-budget Radiohead (not that that's a bad thing). Finally, I'll mention the covers: aside from the Robert Palmer one, he also does "Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend" by Pet Shop Boys, and "Billy Morgan" by The Men They Couldn't Hang. I got nothing against them -- they're good songs, and are performed well.
Okay, so, nothing's perfect, and neither is this album: it kind of grinds to a halt near the end. "Why Are They Laughing?" doesn't really present a case as to why it should be six minutes long, and "Similar to Sugar Pill" pushes the twee needle into the red zone. Plus, man, if you're gonna cover the music from "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!", do the fight music!
Shall we conclude this public service announcement now? Okay. Disclaimer is good. If they work at it, they can get even better. I'd suggest a little more work on the songwriting, so it's more consistent. Thank you, and good day.
Best songs: Fixing a Hole, Hell, Like the Backside of a Bulimic's Teeth, Generic Shoulder Blade Tattoo
Worst songs: Mufasa Kisses, De Sitter Horizons
Two years (well, more or less) have passed, and with that passage of time, Disclaimer has (for the most part) grown stronger. In comparison with album the previous, The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss features clearer, more elaborate production, and Willie's singing voice has become more confident. Unfortunately, Willie seems to have decided to leave behind the simple charm of straightforward indie-pop, so there's nothing as immediately ear-ticklingly catchy as "Five Mile Hill" or "Your Bird Is Going to Fly Away" this time (well, on second thought, "Hell" is pretty close). However, he's also dove into the well of art-pop weirdness, and has come back up with some absolutely brilliant compositions.
The album kicks off with the slow electronic loping of "Fixing a Hole", in which the protagonist details his problems through a vocoder. (And that's a good Kraftwerk/Buggles vocoder, not the trendy Cher/Daft Punk Techno Vocoder of Doom.) Sort of like "Fitter, Happier", except where that song really sucked and wasn't really a 'song', this is an absolutely brilliant bit of neurosis captured on disc. In fact, I won't hesitate in calling this one of the best songs of 2003. Cause, y'know, I've heard them all. Even the White Stripes ones.
I don't really want to go through all the songs in detail, because that would entail, uh, work and shit. I'll just summarize the rest: "God Said, 'Plastics!'" makes a reference to Jack Chick. How is that not good? "Vending Machine" isn't one of my favorites, but the simile contained therein is one that I can identify with way too easily. "Like the Backside of a Bulimic's Teeth" is a lot prettier than its title would imply, and Willie hits a high note! Vocally! "You Ruined Anything" features the most melodic use of the phrase "I got screwed" ever, and it has my favorite phrase on the entire album: 'feted, fellated, and filleted'. I'm trying to figure out how to work that into everyday conversation. "Generic Shoulder Blade Tattoo" is reminiscent of XTC's "Knights in Shining Karma", what with its vocal+electric guitar arrangement. And the lyrics are kinda fucked up. 'You can push your thumb through my soft spot and wiggle it around to make me march / You suck the goo from your fingers as you discredit my memoirs'? Huh?
Half two: "Mufasa Kisses" is my least favorite track on the album, being as it's a dissonant sort-of-technoey instrumental, like "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Part 2", except not as annoying. "De Sitter Horizons" is undermined by its dull arrangement. But then there's "Hell", a brilliant pop song featuring the great turn of a phrase, 'the love you take is inversely proportionate to the love you make'. Track 10 is "Wrong for the Right Reasons Is Still Wrong". It's okay. Finally we have "Please Pardon Our Progress!!!" (featuring special guest star Joe Hinchcliffe), which might be a good song, but for once the production is too claustrophobic and distracting for me to tell. There's also a secret hidden bonus track, but I won't spoil it for you.
So, should I try and finish this with some milquetoast generalization about the album? Sure! Willie's new artsy direction is an interesting bit of turnabout, though I'd hardly call it unwelcome. It's not common that someone can manage both pop and non-pop equally well. So buy the damn album already.
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