Though it’s not often spoken about, the dual identity of musician and music critic exists in our society and has for quite some time. Chrissie Hynde was a music journalist before fronting The Pretenders, if you want the best prototype. But for more current examples, look no further than The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle, whose Last Plane to Jakarta blog contains his opinions on current music, updated frequently. Then there’s the case of All Music, who have had the likes of Ui’s Sasha Frere-Jones (also a contributor to the New Yorker) and Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz write reviews. And if you must know, yours truly is also in a band. I won’t get into that right now. But Matt LeMay, like all the aforementioned individuals and myself, has officially crossed over from Pitchfork writer to guitar-wielding rock-and-roller.
LeMay’s band, Get Him Eat Him, are a fresh and fuzzy indie pop group with lots of promise. Like a more synth-heavy Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, GHEH make a fine case for the critic taking over on their debut Geography Cones. I won’t get into the particulars of how I imagine our Chicago contemporaries plan on covering the album. That’s touchy business, you know. But I can tell you that LeMay’s in the clear on this end. Cones ain’t half bad.
“The Celebration” may open the record nicely enough, using Ted Leo-style guitar riffage to drive it home, but the party doesn’t really start until “One Word,” an unruly, imbalanced synthpunk mess that’s pure, unadulterated punk rock chaos. “Pardon My French,” however, sounds far more conventional by comparison, opting for a power-pop sound rather than that of the whole system collapsing. “Not Not Nervous,” though, makes up for its predecessors conventionality with skronky guitars, cheese-synth and gigantic anthemic choruses.
While the volume does get turned up occasionally, and the band may play with dissonant guitar chords and synthesized sounds, there’s an overwhelming sense of restraint to the record. It’s as if they needed just enough of an edge to sabotage an otherwise crisp power-pop record. And to some extent, that’s what it is. But Get Him Eat Him do throw in some amusing twists and turns that do more than merely fuck up a record—they make it much more interesting. The vocoder on “Mumble Mumble,” for instance, is a nice touch. And the nearly atonal harmonization on “Shirt Like a Couch” takes what would have been a straightforward track and made it just that much cooler.
I must also point out that there’s a walrus on the back cover, dressed like a pirate. Moving on, Get Him Eat Him play pop for people who are bored with pop. They kick it around a bit until it’s a little misshapen, but still largely recognizable, even in its altered form. And yet, that abuse has only made it stronger. My best advice to them, however, is to mess it up even more. Then you might even land in LeMay’s former employers’ “Best New Music” column. But again, I’m not one to speculate.
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – The Tyranny of Distance
The Wrens – Secaucus
The Anniversary – Designing A Nervous Breakdown
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.