Unlike previous Auto Body Experience releases, this album leans less on the clever and more heavily on musicality and lyrical depth. To be sure there are several very clever moments (both lyrically and musically), but you will find yourself re-listening more for the complex vocal harmonies, great guitar work, and a sense that bandleader Scott Yoho somehow took inspiration for some of his subject matter from deep within your own brain.
It is with great solemnity that this reviewer reminds the reader that there will never be another Auto Body album, but with great joy tells you that it is so wonderfully re-listenable - particularly from the midpoint on. A fine capstone to the Auto Body Experience experience.
Track 1: We're So Glad
After each of the first four albums had started at a frenetic pace, it was somewhat of a shock to hear this opener. A groovy rock fanfare announcing the music's arrival and the song does what it says on the tin - no jokes here.
Track 2: The Alligator Boy
Those who know Scott Yoho also know of his borderline obsession with the freak shows of carnivals and circuses of yesteryear, and from this he brings us a tale of the unintended side-effects of shutting down the gawker tents. A plaintive cry caressed by gentle background vocals asks why the freaks must now work in the shadows instead of on the stage. Quite haunting.
Track 3: Toothpaste and Orange Juice
This is classic Auto Body Experience - take a simple, universal concept and apply it in an unexpected way. Everyone knows that toothpaste and OJ make the worst taste sensation ever, but Scott reminds us that only the combo is the problem, and each is perfectly fine in their own right. The twist comes when you realize that this can apply to people just as easily. A fun, clever tune with a nice message.
Track 4: Watch It Stay
A musically-stimulating take on an old expression, "if you keep making that face, it'll stay that way". The background vocals alone ("Didn't your mom...") are worth the price of admission. The song evokes a feeling of nostalgia, between the bouncy flavor of the groove and the lyrical imagery of a girl looking as if she were on a magazine cover. Probably my only criticism on this whole album is on this otherwise light and happy tune, in that it conjures up the idea of telling a woman on the sidewalk to smile, which is seen as quite demeaning and patronizing to women by many. I'd be surprised if the lyricist didn't wrestle with that a bit at some point in the song's evolution.
Track 5: Beyond Neptune
One of two tunes where I felt a heavy TMBG (They Might Be Giants) vibe - a tale of things we've taken for granted as fact until they are one day removed from existence, such as a ninth planet, or a long-term relationship. Thought provoking, and a bit eerie.
Track 6: Mama's Got a Secret
One of the first tunes written after the previous album, and definitely the most naughty. A catchy chord progression underscores the rollout of the big question – what does that humming thing mom uses behind locked doors DO? Well, if the answer were obvious, the song would be on a Zappa album, not an ABE disc...but Scott thought that the suggestive nature of this song was ribald enough to include a different version as a bonus track that replaces the subject matter with a kid-centric theme. For kids. And adults that like good kids' music.
Track 7: Captain, My Captain
Probably the poetic pinnacle of the release, this ballad tells the story that all parents know of their kids growing up more quickly than you are ready for, and that simple childhood things are so fleeting that they are already gone before you notice. On a personal note, Scott Yoho is an evil, evil man for including Highway 10, the road that I drive with my 10-year-old son every time he comes to stay with me, in the emotional climax of the song. You made a grown man weep, Scott. I hope you're proud of yourself. I simultaneously want to put this song on repeat and to never hear it again.
Track 8: Sleeper
The album has really hit its stride now. Sleeper presents as a gearhead song, complete with fabulous Brian Wilson-style backgrounds and instrumentation, but like most Yoho creations turns into a more general social commentary with the message "When you're a sleeper, it's what you do, not how you look" which can be liberally applied to things outside of just hot rods.
Track 9: Wound Too Tight
A more 2nd-than-3rd-wave ska tune with a great message and an amazingly infectious chorus, this song also highlights the talented horn section. The music and lyrics match so well that I find it hard to believe that either came first, and that the song must have been birthed whole from Scott's frontal lobe. I have listened to this particular track more times than I feel comfortable admitting.
Track 10: There's Got to Be a Name
Ah, the Imposter Syndrome, which I'm pretty sure anyone with a hint of self-awareness has brushed up against in moments of self-doubt, although like Scott (and myself before I read the liner notes) you probably didn't know what it was called. Have you ever had the feeling that your workmates/church group/social club/etc have gotten an impression that you are better/smarter/more adept at an activity/etc than you actually are, and that this unwarranted expectation is going to come crashing down around you at any moment? Welcome to Scott's song. And my world.
This was the second tune on the disc where I felt a heavy TMBG vibe.
Track 11: Piggyback
The only instrumental piece on the disc, Piggyback is a true joy to listen to as it showcases Scott Yoho as both composer and guitarist. A wonderful homage to the sweet guitar sounds of the 70s that forces the question "When is Yoho going to do a guitar album, hmmm?" Hear the echoes of Vaughan and Hendrix amongst others while you feel the cuffs on your jeans expand to hide your shoes.
Track 12: Get Things Done
Based on a true story about a man that got a bus for "free." Part Hot Rod Lincoln and part gospel revival tune, this song brings the music and the funny. Scott's voice is absolutely perfect for everything about this song, both spoken word and singing.
Track 13: The Concrete Wall
This is the masterpiece of the CD, in this reviewer's humble opinion. The imagery put forth by both the lyrics and the spiraling music is intense. I wanted to hear the recursive initial chorus over and over and over and over... The vocal harmonies are over-the-top with close-knit movement and dissonance that nearly resolves before returning to the top of the musical Ferris wheel to begin again. I wanted so much for that initial chorus to come back later in the song that I nearly yelled at my stereo when it didn't, but I was stopped by an ending worthy of White Album-level approval - the kind that makes you want to turn up the volume all the way so you can hear every last speck of sound. Amazing.
Track 14: 3'44"
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Track 15: Kids, I've Learned a Secret
The cleaned-up version of Track 6, this song teaches kids to question what they see and hear, from the "cherries" in their fruit cocktail (they're actually grapes dyed red) to the ripped-off melodies lazy children's music writers use (spot the delicious irony). Very cute, informative, and a fine extra to include.
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