Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Free Design - Kites are Fun

The Free Design – Kites Are Fun
Project 3, 1967
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2010
Price: $8

This is some proto-twee shit. I bought this because I vaguely remember this band from my Nuggets/twee-pop-is-god phase and I don’t think I ever listened to it. That seems to be the only reason I can use to get myself to buy records since I don’t really need them anymore and I clearly don’t listen to them enough. So “Oh great! I haven’t heard this and I think this record is rare maybe” is as good an excuse as any. This is the only record in my collection that is musty (it’s simply not allowed, not ever, especially since I’ve started working at HPB in which handling collections that have been collecting mold and such for the last 20 years makes me throw musty records away on sight), a rare exception. No visible mold, but you can certainly smell the must. A small sacrifice, I suppose. The music is what you would expect from a band tagged with a label like “Sunshine Pop.” The siblings Dedrick certainly have a penchant for happy jams, that’s for sure. Laid back, groovy loungey tunes from the Summer of Love, etc. There are some long liner notes that I don’t have time to read, but the first line of the title track proclaims “This bright, gay song was, literally, the beginning of the Free Design.” (Note: Haha, Gay. Lol). The song-by-song notes look like they’ve been written by some PR exec desperate to make you think this music is interesting but instead ruins them with over-explanation with lines like “Chris adds a jaunty recorder solo to the group’s singing” and quotes from the band like “If it takes drugs to free your mind, you’re reaching out for nothing. Your own imagination is where it’s at.” God, what a bunch of SQUARES. On the whole, this is a really fucking lame record. Just painfully lame, which I suppose is why it reminds me of twee pop. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy aspects of it, but really, after reading some of these lame ass liner notes, I’m thinking about how much more interesting this might be if it wasn’t for stuff like “It’s important for the whole song to have an idea, like a novel or a poem, although it doesn’t have to be very profound. To start with you need a catchy phrase. But after that phrase, a lot of songs don’t go very far. I spend a lot of time on the lyrics trying to make them say something and, at the same time, to make sure that they’re not so deep that nobody understands them.” This over-explanation of concept is an interest-killer, for real. But I suppose pretending it doesn’t exist and just evaluating the record, it’s still just some boring folk-tinged easy listening pop. Sure, I can see the influence on twee a bit (singing about Kites, carefree things, etc) but Twee was cool because it incorporated punk rock. This is not-cool because it tries to be as vanilla as humanly possible in an effort to get more people to listen to it. At least that’s the impression I get. This might have sounded really fresh in ’67. Who knows, maybe I woulda ate this shit up but now it’s dated in a sad sort of way. Plus, the whole thing sounds like it was painstakingly packaged by out of touch record label execs trying to tap in to the “youth market” and it shows. Still, there are plenty of nice harmonies and well orchestrated bits of instrumentation and I guess it’s a nice album, but nice album’s don’t get asked to the prom.

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