What separates Brooklyn-based quartet the Davenports from other power-pop acts like Jimmy Eat World and Guster is their attention to the most minute details of day-to-day drudgery. On the band's third album, Why the Great Gallop?, frontman and principal songwriter Scott Klass once again proves himself capable of taking seemingly trivial concerns and spinning them into quirky, cockeyed narratives. The band may be most famous for their song "Five Steps," which has been used as the theme to A&E's Intervention, but Why the Great Gallop? isn't always empathetic with the plights of Klass's well-drawn characters, and that subtle mean streak only heightens the album's unique point of view.
Though the album lacks a single narrative arc, that characters recur over multiple songs gives Why the Great Gallop? the feel of a candid, confessional reality series. There are no great, world-shaking revelations here, but opener "Christopher Starts" turns on a precise flavor of social discomfort, with the titular man "talking to [Mary] like she's a kid," oblivious to the narrator's unspoken feelings for Mary. She returns in "Don't Cry Mary" and "Figure Me Out," and Klass remains evasive in his details as to the exact nature of the relationship with her. Instead, he spends his time "Hanging Out with Dave" and dealing with a difficult, enabling family on "Something's Gonna Get Us" and "You Can't Drink Anymore." The individual sketches and anecdotes all work well as standalone songs, but the album as a whole makes for a more fully-realized piece.
The best power-pop albums—say, Fountains of Wayne's Utopia Parkway and Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American—trade in the irony that comes from marrying relatively inconsequential stories to massive hooks and soaring melodies. To that end, the Davenports understand the ins and outs of their chosen genre. The jaunty handclaps and electric guitar power chords that drive "Girl I Brought Home" mask some serious fears of commitment, while "Now Is the Time" uses a deceptively pretty, acoustic guitar arrangement complete with a sitar flourish to outline a week's worth of bachelor-party debauchery. The lo-fi production lacks the overall punch of similar albums by Jimmy Eat World and Guster, but the Davenports still get their point across.