Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Album review: The Jealous Disco from My Wooden Leg
A fun adventure into a music style to which few can lay claim.
My first experience with My Wooden Leg was in April at the West Berry Block Party in Fort Worth. The band played at Old Rip's, a bar-slash-Tex Mex restaurant right around TCU that is now dead and gone. Maybe rightfully so, as the area allotted to bands to perform was very miniscule and didn’t allow for many in the crowd, and definitely lacked the acoustics and all-around energy for sets.
Nonetheless, the fest rocked on and our boys at My Wooden Leg triumphed, and from then I was hooked.
So it’s only been a short love affair so far between me and MWL’s music, made much stronger with the arrival of the band’s debut full-length album, The Jealous Disco.
Interesting album title, I thought almost immediately. But frontman Michael Maftean read my mind, and sent me this poetic description:
“The Jealous Disco is that place you would do anything and everything to be apart of. It’s that club that all the cool people go to and you wait in line all night only to be denied entry at the door. It’s that killer job with 6 figures, a huge house, and a perfect spouse. It’s fame, fortune, it’s ALL that bullshit. How does one get into The Jealous Disco with no v.i.p. pass? Gypsy style.
Sneak into The Jealous Disco with My Wooden Leg and they will show you that it isn’t what you expected. It’s ugly. Filled with nothing but fabrication, worst of all everyone believes the lies and refuses to see the truth.”
Not even a listen and I was stoked already.
If you’re not familiar with gypsy rock, you’re starting off on the right leg (pun kind of intended) with these guys. My Wooden Leg is a wonderful marriage of world/gypsy/indie/Americana and pulls out all the stops in everything the band creates. A Circus, the band’s debut EP, is six tracks of whimsical thematic music that puts you right into that old town, hippie circus performing act environment.
And from a band “conceived in Romania, born in Chicago and raised in Fort Worth,” you can expect some quirky jam seshes in The Jealous Disco that’ll make you want to dance around the bonfire.
The title track, “Jealous Disco,” is introduced with ambient sound effects, hopping bass, and eerie, drawn out harmonies. A short way in, there are some spitfire lyrics and taunting na na na nas that’ll temporarily remind you of some old school System of a Down, complete with ominous lyrics “I have said/all that I should say.”
“Papusa” is the beautifully transient track performed completely in Romanian that hits the very core of the band’s gypsy style, with the added kick of some modern electric guitar during the vocal breaks. The chants of eyyyyyyyyooo, di di di di are seamless with the haunting lyrical content, translated into lines such as “You are my doll/You have stolen my heart/Sleep in my shoes and tangle me up/I love my doll, because she has no speech (tongue)/With your sins, I’ll stay mixed up.”
“Foreign Girls” and “Dead Legs” are almost a complete 180 from “Papusa,” giving us the classic indie style with featurettes of the funk bass layered underneath the driving drumbeat, rock ‘n’ roll electric guitar and rhythmic vocals. (The latter features the well-matched harmonies we got a peek of in “Jealous Disco,” as well as politically driven lyrics referring to the 99 percent, deadly radiation and “you can’t make us.”)
“Casa De Nebuni” has me in the mindset I’m circling ’round a creepy, dusty carousel where the theme music switches between English and Romanian and gets faster and faster until I am allowed to calm down about two minutes in. It should be noted that I’m pretty sure my pulse actually got faster while listening to that track, and when your music can physically affect your listeners, you know you’re doing something right.
“O Evadare” is the most experimental track on the album in that it sets itself apart from the other tracks in terms of style. It’s more electronically/experimentally focused with the increasingly catchy drum catches and electronic orchestra intro, serving as the base for the vocal samples, again mixed between English and Romanian (“do you remember that time/when you said you were gonna die,” “stabbed him in the head” and America are a few of the lyrics I could catch, and what they have to do with each other had me thinking well into the next track).
“Cop City” sounds more hard rock than the others, with some Sublime influences in the beat and delivery of the lyrics. If you’re not listening closely, you could be swept away into the sound alone (especially the guitar feature in the track’s center) and miss what the band is saying – the track is an attention driver to the men and women of the judicial forces, serving up a strong message with lines like “In cop city they don’t serve and protect/in cop city they harass and collect,” and “and then he shot my friend.”
“The Schmuck” and “Pet Peeves” are another two tracks that embody the group’s stylistic uniqueness in its pitch range, classic, driving bass line, flawless harmonies, rapid vocal style, and fluctuating tempos.
And we’re finally treated with a fun remix of “Jealous Disco” a club-enhanced, driving, dance fest empowered with a deeper vibe, and “Asa Mare,” an eight-second vocal track.
Give the album a turn or two (or 15); it’s a fun adventure into a music style to which few can lay claim. As a Fort Worthian, I’m amped that My Wooden Leg hails from my town, giving me plenty of opportunities to catch the band’s performances. (Note to self: See one of the performances again in a much better venue than Old Rips.)
If you can picture yourself playing this album at a bonfire, driving down the dusty roads, getting yourself energized and swimming in the extra sensory areas of your imagination, the live shows should be a heck of a time. My Wooden Leg will be at The Common Table in Dallas on Saturday, July 14 at 9 p.m., and from what I can see from the band’s Twitter account, there will be performances around the country for those of you not lucky enough to be in DFW.
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