Lou Barlow once demanded “Gimme Indie Rock!” He delivered. (To himself, really.) Exactly twenty years from the release of that 7-inch comes the totally awesome, totally indie tape This Is Not a Dream, via Totally Disconnected, from Brazilian Money, totally the brainchild of Garrett Johnson, sole full-time member (and a Canadian, not a Brazilian). The indie rock revitalization is truly upon us, I say! Johnson dredges up the best of the mid-1990s scene, clearly nostalgic for the not-too-distant past, and crams it into this quick-paced release, filling what could very well be a tired genre exercise with excitement, wit, and amiability, while not forgetting to slack just enough so as not to come off as serious or self-serving or even pretentious. He drills it on the sweet spot. Good for him.
And let me be clear – this record came out of nowhere this year and blew me away. I had so much fun listening to it that I didn’t mind it repeating over and over again on my way to work and back over the past couple days. There’s a freshness to it that has lacked in traditional indie rock (whatever that means, but I’ll have comparisons in a minute) since its heyday during my college years, and that sameness has sort of turned me off to the genre itself, or at least made me more wary of those trafficking in it. What the heck, I could never truly abandon it – it was the bread and butter of my collection for years. I mean, sheesh, Pavement’s my favorite band of all time. Not much left to the imagination, is there?
Pavement’s a good comp for Brazilian Money, at least a good starting point. Their songs have a similar wink-nod smart-mouthed-ness to them that projects an I-could-care-less attitude at the core; however, the songwriting is strong and the playing is tight, so there’s a post-punk-ish vibe that seeps through, in kind of a Joggers sort of way. But the attitude is spot on, and renders possibly goofy tunes like “Give Up That Dog,” whose lyrics mostly go “Give up that dog / it’s got no bite / enough is enough is enough is enough / whoa-oh,” in a quirky yet poignant atmosphere. Bass and guitar bounce, the drums kick up a racket, and the dual vocals sing/shout like they’re having the time of their lives, in whatever basement or garage in which they’re recording to 4-track. Similarly, “Then You’ll Know” plays dumb, with its rhyming of “night,” “fight,” “light,” etc., almost ad nauseum, reinforcing that Johnson’s smarter and, er, ironic-er than you think, as it’s all played with bratty punk energy – a quick burst of “screw it, whatever,” but you know they’re smarter than they’re letting on.
Johnson and crew continue to play stylistic dress-up, and look no further than each end of the Dig! spectrum for inspiration, laying on equal layers of Brian Jonestown Massacre druggy grit and hustle and Dandy Warhols half-assed genre vamping. This is the fun part – Brazilian Money switches it up throughout the album and has so much obvious fun that you can’t help but be swept up by the weirdness. In “Put Out That Cigarette,” Johnson wails in falsetto while marrying the dickish qualities of Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Anton Newcombe, predicting the first collaboration of their two bands, which unfortunately will likely never happen. (The song features one of the most surprising and inspired slides from verse to WTF-chorus I’ve heard in a while.) He does Taylor-Taylor again, this time in low register mode, on the perfectly Dandy-titled “Party ’Til I’m Dead,” a fast-driving rave up wherein Johnson sounds lit and ready for more. It begins, fittingly enough, with a kind of half-speed tribute to Komeda’s trifle of a party anthem “Boogie Woogie/Rock’n’Roll” – whether it’s intentional or not, it’s a nice touch before Johnson staggers into the song. “Nobody’s Coming” has that ramshackle acoustic Dandies vibe – think “Country Leaver” or “Minnesoter” – and although it lasts less than two minutes and is probably an afterthought to the band, it’s oddly one of my favorite moments on This Is Not a Dream. (And admittedly, it’s littered with favorite moments.)
As if out to prove the post-punky rock chops hinted at earlier in the record were not a fluke, late-album cuts “Not a Dream” and “Lost All Sense of Time” lurch around in rhythm and synth for a couple minutes each, both hard-charging and fiery, and filled with melody despite the initial skronk. They simply add to the fun, and do nothing to predict album closer “Oscar Finds Me.” This song completely drives me crazy, because it reminds me of another song that I can’t think of. Maybe I’ll figure it out at some point. Until then, it’s a shuffly, faux-country stumbler that would fit nicely as a transitional number on a Man Man album, or possibly as a Coxon-led Blur larf. I love it. Have I mentioned I love Brazilian Money? I’m smiling like a goon while listening right now. Even the almost interminable four minutes of interlude material halfway through the album is worth getting through once you realize that Pavement does the same thing – think half-baked instrumental b-sides or maybe one of the noodly crap takes from their Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast appearance. Screw it, hit fast forward, I don’t care. I do care that you listen to this though. It may very well make my year-end list. Hooray for Brazilian Money!
RIYL: Pavement, The Joggers, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols