As noted in a recent New York Times article, Filipino karaoke fans often respond to the puffy, arrogant strains of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” by shooting the singer who chooses the song. Everybody Was in the French Resistance…Now!, a strangely over-conceptualized side project from Art Brut’s Eddie Argos, takes a gentler tack. Their retort is “My Way (Isn’t Always the Best Way),” a foot-shuffling ode to self-deprecation, which prizes indecision over self-assuredness. It’s a paltry, puzzling song, and though the consequences of these two responses may be different, in the end they both seem equally ill-conceived.
The gimmick behind Fixin’ the Charts Volume One is a strange one. It’s the first—though not last, if the title suggests anything—side album from Argos and the Blood Arm multi-instrumentalist Dyan Valdes, its 12 songs offering unasked-for responses to pop hits both classic and obscure. A lot of questions crop up around this kind of harebrained structure, which seems like the kind of wacky idea that a little bit of clear thinking would rectify. Yet the strained concept proves as inconsequential to why this is a bad album as it would if it were a good one.
One major problem seems to lie in the song choices, which, if not baffling, at least don’t seem to follow any logical pattern. This is only a problem because most of the originals in no way seem to require a response. We might have suspected that Bob Dylan was actually feeling a little hurt when he wrote “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” but to hear a straightforward explanation of this is a blow against the magic of that song. Which doesn’t bode well for “Think Twice (It’s Not Alright),” which supplies the singer a teary rejoinder.
The songs that do seem to welcome a response, like Martha and the Vandellas’s “Jimmy Mack” (which receives a response from the scorned lover’s perspective: “Hey, I’m Jimmy Mack”) feel like silly meta-trickery. Others like “Billie’s Genes,” which declares that “the kid is your son,” are one-note jokes that feel stale before the song even begins. If these were more standalone songs than thin jokes, there probably wouldn’t be an issue. But they all seem to have the unfortunate consequence of messing with the original while offering up a paltry, half-written counterpoint.
It’s not quite accurate to say that Argos has wasted all of the good will engendered by his band’s loopy treatment of rock n’ roll mores, but Fixin’ the Charts is a misstep. It seems like the singer’s dented wit could bear fruit on something like “Creeque Allies,” a tangential response to the Mamas and the Papas’s “Creeque Alley” that details the intricacies of the French Resistance’s history, but it all feels like the half-assed payoff to an uninspired pun. Like the band’s name, which reeks of lazy jokery slapped onto a tiring concept, the album is trite, cute, and completely forgettable.