By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
WHO WOULD'VE THOUGHT it: Indie-pop electronica as background for beer commercials? When Land of the Loops' song "Multi Family Garage Sale" showed up in Miller ads, it didn't signal the end of hipster snobbery as we know it. In fact, the company's new ad campaign gave Miller Time a whole new meaning. Gone were the beer-swigging losers who chased after triple-D-cupped babes; in came blaxploitation-film copies and Evel Knievel-style stunt men. Land of the Loops' former Slabco labelmates Sukpatch could easily cater to this new demographic. And, with their new EP, Honky-Tonk Operation, licensed to Sony, who knows--they may soon be looping for Coors.
Not bad for three guys who started jacking beats as a direct response to the fact that they couldn't cut it as indie rockers. The switch from guitars to samplers made Sukpatch local indie-hop heroes, and they even made international headway when the supercool London label Mo' Wax agreed to distribute their first CD, Haulin' Grass and Smokin' Ass, in Europe.
So where does Honky-Tonk Operation fit into this schema? It would seem that the formerly skimpy Sukpatch record collection/sample bin has expanded. "Resley" throws a sitar sample over their basic hip-hop-'til-you-drop beats. But the common thread between the CD's songs, as well as the rest of the Sukpatch catalog, remains Chris Heidman and Steve Cruze's Ween-on-helium vocals. Therein lies Sukpatch's trademark--and their problem. The melodies refuse to vary. Sure, the trippy singsong is damn endearing, but the absence of any sort of hook makes the songs indistinguishable.
You could forgive this if the record had curious analog effects--like their foghorn-filled 7-inch hit, "Lucky Neighbah Floorshow." You could also forgive them if the songs told a story. And maybe they do, but it's impossible to tell from the muddled lyrics. Maybe they should have provided a crib sheet to help us follow their vocal pitter-patter. Even hard-core singers will tell their crowds: "All right, this song's about the migrant workers in California who are systematically oppressed by a fascist conspiracy perpetrated by the owners, the state, and the taxpayers who support this pigfuckin' country!" (before they blather at the top of their lungs over 30 seconds of unlistenable noise). Turning up the vocals in the mix--or enunciating!--might have almost made this work. But, as is, Honky-Tonk Operation only goes to show that an expanded sample repertoire does not an electronic band make.