When my family moved while I was in my youth, about to enter the fourth grade to be exact, I had many apprehensions. Childhood fears gripped me, and I went further into my insular world. At my old school, I lived within walking distance, and so would hoof it every day. At this new school, I had to take the bus. To my amazement, however, Betty the bus driver used to placate all of her passengers with rock music coming out of the bus’ speakers. I had no idea school buses even had radios! And so, doors were opened for me. For one, I was introduced to the world of popular music. For another, I found I could start conversations based on the simplest of phrases, “I like this song.” Music became the great leveler. How I viewed music through those youthful eyes is how the Baton Rouge band, the Eames Era, sees music, with innocent reverence and playfulness, allowing that naiveté to introduce themselves to their listeners.
Double Dutch, another reference which brings up thoughts of childhood, is the debut full-length from the Eames Era, a band made up of two guitarists who met at LSU (billed in the liner notes as ‘red guitar,’ ‘white guitar’), a bassist, drummer, and a female vocalist with distinctive pipes, Ashlin Phillips. Phillips’ voice takes center stage on Double Dutch, reflecting an equal mix of Jenny Lewis’ world-wise sexuality, and Sherri Dupree’s (of Eisley) wide-eyed artistic adolescence. The balance is shown to great effect from song one, “Go to Sleep,” when Phillips sings the self-conscious lyrics, “I said I could be much smarter than I am, and you said that could be true.” It’s fair to say that the success of the band will rest on a tripod of concepts, Phillips’ intoxicating voice, the tight power pop backing her, and the lyrics sounding like they were penned on a Pee-Chee folder in the seventh grade.
The band gets their most ‘adult’ on “Listen for the Sun,” with crunchier guitars, aggressive pop drumming and new wave keyboards as Phillips sings, “And when you talk like a fucker / It’s not what you said / It’s that you said it in a cynical tone.” Yet even that seems spoken from the voice of inexperience, which is not necessarily a bad thing. My favorite song on the album is “Year of the Waitress.” The Blondie-like backup singing of the boys in the band is catchy as hell as Phillips sings her tales of waitressing woe. Many of the songs share something sonically with bands of the late ’70s / early ’80s new wave boom including Blondie, the Talking Heads, and others. The two guitarists wanted to form their sound around the dual guitar assault of Television, but instead of the dark sophistication of that band, their architecture (get it? Eames? Architecture? Never mind.) ended up more in line with the sweeter sounds of Squeeze or XTC.
The Eames Era has suffered a few tragedies lately. They survived two, count ’em, two hurricanes, and before they were to begin a tour, were hit by a National Guard truck and suffered several injuries, but thankfully nothing worse than broken bones and stitches. The juxtaposition of the harshness of the real world with the sweetly innocent sound of the band’s music is striking. I was reminded that they were, rather than a Saturday morning cartoon version of a pop band, in fact a real pop band who inhabits the same Earth that I do.