Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Breakup Society: Nobody Likes A Winner

The Breakup Society

Nobody Likes a Winner
Get Hip Recordings

Who knew failure and at best, mediocrity could be so fun? Usually, the emotions expressed in music are tied to the tone of the music itself. Nobody writes a funeral march if they want people to get up and dance. I take that back. Those women I used to date danced to that kind of music. Sigh. Goth girls. We've all been there. A better example is that someone doesn't harp about a lack of inspiration in work and relationships to a happy beat. It's sarcastic, so people don't like it much like they won't like a movie with a sad ending. However, The Breakup Society and more specifically, leader/songwriter Ed Masley has turned self loathing and disappointment into a new art form on his sophomore(ic) effort Nobody Likes a Winner with songs about distrust of ambitious coworkers and lowering expectations, but with happy, compressed, guitar driven, solid beat music plus a few surprises!

Once we come of age and have enough dispappointment in our lives to cut our expectations, we lose a lot of optimism. This might just be a product of growing older. What happens often as a result is that our personal identification with music as carrying meaning for us is lost. It made us who we are, but we're not tying our experiences or specific events to it like we once did. Nobody Likes a Winner breaks this mold with a collection of songs that we aging hipsters can identify with. Remember when you were a kid and you heard something that made the lightbulb in your head go off thinking "Someone's singing about me!"? It's pretty cool, but also scary in a way. For example, a teenager probably won't identify with "When your work is a drag and I'm drinkin' from a bag" on "The World Will Change Our Love," but the combination of power chords, some good reverb, and some bright riffing, and an "oooh oooh" vocal background will have rock 'n' roll lovers of every age singing along. I'd have to caution there's a hint of subtle silver lining when it's finally explained "The World will change our love if we let it." Ed Masley let's us know that he's not sure if not falling off the deep end after a break up is a good thing when he admits "I guess I'm not the asshole your cold heart might have preferred. Failure saved me from myself" on "How Failure Saved Me From Myself," which combinesa an almost electrified folk sound, great string arrangements, and a humming chorus that comes off as simple acceptance of the end of a relationship without any passion or feeling because one just isn't capable of having those emotions. If you love dysfunction, this is your album. How many of us have wanted to stop a break up by asking to "Forget the past, start repeating it with me?"

There's now a soundtrack for the cube farm generation! For most of us, a job is a job. It could pay well, but there's something we'd rather be doing like music or pursuing another passion. Still, a lot of us work hard at what we do out of the hope of earning some recognition and thus, monetary gain, only to find out that some 'bubbly' happy type gets it for doing less work or less quality work. At least that's the background. The resulting feelings are highlighted in the title track "Nobody Likes a Winner," a punk pop song that takes us along for a fun musical ride that will have many listeners singing along "bop bop bop bop" in tune with the chorus "Cause if you wanna succeed, you have to go full speed ahead of everyone you're going to need someday on your way back down."

Of course, a true nerd is the only one who can sing about acceptance of one's mediocrity so eloquently. As almost an obligation, Ed invents a new word "scientifical" in "Strictly Biological Heart." There's a common theme in Nobody Likes a Winner that's sarcastic, sad but true, and mostly familiar except some departures into more disturbing territory about a potentially violent and physically abusive person as seen by the woman who makes excuses for him as she continues to be a victim in "13th Angry Man." Lyrically provoking, musically upbeat, but then ends with psychedelic guitar that will make Byrds fans proud. Nobody Likes a Winner has great hooks and a lot more music takes place that you'll notice with every repeat listen, so it's basic with a lot of subtleties, but true to powerpop form that the music is compressed It's a celebration of mediocrity and disappointment done happy! It's not about getting the girl, it's about feeling dissatisfied no matter what.

Rock 'n' roll in all its great simplicity and accessiblity is still art. A great thing about that is that one's favorite album for one reason becomes their favorite one years later for completely different reasons, which means that one hears something new, like a different layer or way of looking at it. Musically, Nobody Likes a Winner adds layers to discover on so many songs. When one gets past the surface sarcasm, they find a lot of heart and deeper emotions like "I Didn't Mean to Wreck Your Day," when Ed laments "If I could see you smile for me the way you used to smile for me," but acknowledges "Your open wound was craving salt before I knew you." There's also a great dive into '60s influenced Americana with Scott MacCaughey from The Young Fresh Fellows and Minus 5 for a guy obsessed with the obituary column on "By a Thread."

Who needs inspiration when you've got great, high energy, loud music about failure, disappointment, and self flagellation? Band leader Ed Masley and his talented outfit The Breakup Society has turned misery into musically happy perfection. That's a surface judgement. The music is great powerpop with incredible psychedelic stylings that like the songs and their meanings, give the listener more to discover with each listen.

Negativity never sounded so great.

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