Matthew Adam Hart (a.k.a. the Russian Futurists) first caught my attention with his playful remix of Stars’s “First Five Times,” a catchy tune from their excellent Set Yourself on Fire. One of the cool things about the edit was the way that Hart made the song both meaner and cuter, embellishing it with fuzzy synth tones and muscular guitar riffs, which, given the original song’s ambivalent recounting of a love affair built on a foundation of drunken hookups, was pretty fitting.
There’s no similar contest between cynicism and sentimentality on The Weight’s on the Wheels: It’s a candygram from the heart of a giddy, geeky romantic who has somehow had his rose-tinted frames surgically grafted to his face. Some of the songs have jokey titles that in no way relate to their lyrics (“Register My Firearms? No Way!”). Others have jokey titles that are unfortunately more reflective of their contents: “100 Shopping Days ‘Til Christmas,” with its generic breakbeats and goofy sing-song lyrics is eerily reminiscent of Kathie Lee Gifford’s infamous “Hip Hop Christmas” special.
Which reminds me that I had considered starting the review with something to the extent of “Oh God, the lyrics, the utterly dreadful lyrics!” Pick a line at random from the album and I can pretty well guarantee you’ll end up with a groaner to the tune of: “She’s spinning plates/I hate to burst her bubble/But she’s got eyes that make the Great Lakes puddles,” “We’re made for each other, baby let’s be lovers/Spend the rest of the night under the covers,” “My handwriting is getting much worse/I can’t remember last night, is that a blessing, a curse?” The most annoying thing about these lyrics is (a) the fixation on smarmy kid’s book couplets, (b) that Hart gives every one of them the same nasal, ascending read, (c) that half the lines are clichés anyway, (d) that the other half don’t make a ton of sense, (e) that you could do consistently better by using a Shel Silverstein book as a Ouija board and singing whatever came out? I can’t decide. One thing that’s easy to decide is that “One Night, One Kiss,” a duet with Ruth Minnikin of the Heavy Blinkers, handily wins the cringeworthy sweepstakes. It’s an AABBCC onslaught, with each couplet split between the two singers, who take turns cooing clunkers and come off like the kind of hopeless high school saps who proofread each others’ homework as foreplay and don’t understand why it’s tacky for couples to wear matching clothes.
It’s sort of a waste because Hart’s rosy synth-pop, though cloying in the same fashion as that of Postal Service, isn’t out-and-out bad. Some of it is fairly catchy, and I don’t imagine that any of it would sound grating as a backing track for a non-crazy singer singing non-ridiculous lyrics (except for “Tripping Horses,” which doesn’t so much sound like Postal Service as much as Weird Al spoofing Postal Service). As presented, the overly peppy pop production and the homeroom poetry of a lyricist whose either trying way too hard or not nearly hard enough to be clever become mutually reinforcing aggravations, and The Weight’s on the Wheels ends up as one of the most annoying records in recent memory.