Friday, March 11, 2011
Pointed Accounts of People You Know - Game Theory
Rational Records ONA-004
I picked this up in a terrific record store in Boulder a couple of years ago. I am embarrassed to admit that I was not aware of Game Theory when they were still an active band back in the 1980s. I don't know how I missed them. It is true that I was still obsessed with the 1960s back then, but I followed the New Wave and I was a fan of the "Paisley Underground" with which this band is sometimes associated. When I finally did pick up on them, I fell hard. They are one of my favorite 1980s bands. A lot of the stuff that I liked back then disappoints me now - the ubiquitous synthesizers, the drum machines, that big 80s sound just seems ugly to me and a lot of that music feels superficial, unoriginal and derivative. Game Theory though holds up pretty well. Side one of this mini-album is classic Game Theory - clever and unusual lyrics sung in Scott Miller's high almost sugary voice backed by 60s inspired power pop loaded with hooks. Miller's style is so distinctive, you know it instantly whenever you hear it whether it is Game Theory or the Loud Family. The guy is a master of his idiom right up there with Robyn Hitchcock, Alex Chilton, Michael Quercio and Nick Lowe. As far as I know he has never made a bad record or even a mediocre one. Side two varies from the formula somewhat. Two of the songs are by the band's original bassist, Fred Juhos and sound nothing like Miller's work. "I Wanna Get Hit By a Car" sounds like a New Wave novelty song, it resembles a blend of the B-52s and Oingo Boingo. I hated it the first time I heard it but it grew on me and now I kind of like it although I'm not all that happy with Juhos' vocal. It is followed by Miller's contribution to the New Wave, "Life In July" with a cheesy 80s synthesizer sound, big drums, a bouncy beat and a vocal by keyboard player Nancy Becker. It is a catchy song but I'd like it better without all the New Wave cliches. The album finishes with Juhos' "37th Day" which is another departure from the classic Game Theory sound, it is a jangle pop ballad that evokes early Jefferson Airplane or Love without being explicitly retro. I like it a lot but I'd like it better if someone else was singing it. If you are a power pop fan, this record is well worth seeking out. Recommended for Big Star fans looking for solace after Alex Chilton's premature departure from this earth.