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Review Time: The Mr. T Experience - Yesterday Rules

yrules.jpgThe thing I love most about The Mr. T. Experience is this: Even when the songs are sad, the music still makes me happy. If you want to wallow in sadness and self-pity, go listen to Stabbing Westward. If you want to elevate a bad mood or just nod your head in agreement with the lyrics without feeling that ugly twinge of self-loathing, go with MTX.

Here come the cliches: infectious beats, charming lyrics, catchy hooks, and you can even dance to it. This review may be cliche; the album is anything but.

The second song on MTX's new album, Yesterday Rules, is a great example of how a band can put all of the above into one little package and makes it work. Can you imagine dancing to a song called "Fucked up on Life?" You can dip your girlfriend and spin her Ďround while singing lines like "Iím outstanding in my field and all I ever want to do is just get plowed."

With each subsequent MTX release, I get anxious with my first listen to the record, wondering if they can reach the lyrical pinnacle of the album before. They have never let me down. And this one just may take over Revenge is Sweet and So are You as my favorite of their collection.

Songs like "Sheís Not a Flower" (You're not a King Bee, you like honey and you're packing a sting) will convince you that MTX is the only band that could pull this type of music off so earnestly without the smarminess that other bands who try to be ironic or metaphoric or just sweetly sad reek of.

The music is just as layered and quirky as the lyrics. On "Oh, Just Have Some Faith in Me" you get a song that takes you to the beach; a keg party, lots of well-tanned kids shaking their arms and kicking up their legs and jumping around like fools having the best time of their life. And if thatís the party song, then the requisite boy-with-a-guitar-singing-in-front-of-the-bonfire song would be "Big, Strange, Beautiful Hammer," with all the drunken kids singing along on the chorus.

"The Boyfriend Box" will resonate with anyone whoís ever stored away old love letters or silly mementos of past relationships (If you need to go any deeper, you can dig them out again, just in case you need to be reminded of what a fool youíve been), but instead of being the melancholy, sappy, cry-along song another band might have turned this into, MTX gives the lyrics a whimsical backdrop of music and you end up smiling in spite of yourself.

That's not to say the album isn't without its downer moments; "London" is a little sorrowful, a little glum, but the music is so layered that the song doesnít fall into the Nine Inch Nails depression trap. Thereí' a certain nuance to the chords and vocals that lets in the loneliness but keeps the song from being morose. Itís the simplest song, "Jill," that finally hits that emotional peak that all the great albums have; that one song you know will make you cry when you feel like crying, that song that you sing in the shower when you're sad or, conversely, identify with so much that you'll often skip over it because it hurts too much. "Jill" is a song for the loser in all of us, a song for that bad breakup that you never quite got over.

Just when "Jill" is about to bring you down, "Shining" kicks you in the ass and tells you to head out to your local dive, buy a beer and shoot some pool. Itís got more metaphors than a fifth grade essay (like a novel by Stephen King, sheís shining) and it will be the first song on the album you learn all the words to.

"Institutionalized Misogyny" has my favorite lyrics. A song that manages to squeeze in Chomsky, Foucault and Woody Allen (I stole that line from Woody Allen, isnít it amusing?) is clearly going to be fun to sing.

Yesterday Rules, like most MTX albums, is hard to describe as a whole. It combines all the great things about pop music with all the perfect things about punk. Itís like doing the Lindy in a mosh pit. Everyone is going to look at you like you're nuts, but eventually they'll join in the fun.

Ken Layne is right. Rock record of the year.

Mr. T Experience is fronted by Dr. Frank, who recorded the entire process of making this album on his blog, Dr. Frank's Whatsit.

And this will also be posted at Blogcritics. As soon as I dance one more time to "Fucked Up on Life."


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» NB from Dr. Frank's What's-it
Hey, thanks Michele! So I'm going to be doing another radio interview/acoustic song thing today on KUSF at around 2pm. (With Carolyn; 90.3FM; 2PM. Live performance, interview. Broadcast live on the internet at: kusf.org.)... [Read More]

» MTX from Fresh Bed Goodness
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I agree, I don't have 'Yesterday Rules' but 'Love is Dead' is part of my collection - probably the only time I'll bop my head and tap my foot to lyrics that go "I don't want to get screwed over by just anyone - you're the only one I want to get screwed over by"

Sounds like a good alternative to all the Tori I've been listening to all day.

Funny, I don't remember Mr. T as a blonde.

If you want sheer misery, try My Dying Bride's "Turn Loose the Swans" album. It'll cheer you up simply because you'll know someone is obviously more miserable than you.