Seldom am I so pleasantly surprised by a record. Joining the pantheon of great soundtrack artists like Pink Floyd, Curtis Mayfield, and the indefatigable Olivia Tremor Control, Elevenland have made an indelible mark with this volume. I don't know if Drowning Missouri is a real film or merely a jibe at gerund-proper name-titled art -- but either way, the soundtrack is worth hunting down.
The record revolves around musical cinema-verité, in which life is viewed through the parallax of a movie camera. "Red Leader" begins the album on an appropriately punkish note, with a raucous Violent Femmes vs. The Cramps Block Party that'll have you stomping your feet clear through the floorboards. Lead guitarist Chris Harford is one of those truly rare players who can play fills and solos without ever making the instrument sound trite. The guitar just explodes in his hands (think of Matthew Sweet's guitarist on "Sick of Myself").
Elevenland continues to amaze with the soulful groove of "Slow Motion Girl", the unabashed acoustic-rock of "Skinny Ben" and the McCartney-esque, 1930s-style hiss and melody of "Super Villain." Throughout, songwriter William Ether drops amusing, sometimes cynical lyrical gems. On the fabulously Kinksian "Matiko Marumba", he delivers my Other Favorite Lyrical Simile of the Year: "It's good to be free of the chains of self-image and pride/Like Sylvia Plath on a waterslide." This leads into an equally impressive chorus: "Matika Marumba/I give you my number/My Queen Isabella/In fake German leather." Awesome. With a heavenly pop drumbeat, "Target Audience" continues in the same whimsical vein; it also offers the album's best line: "If I were a soldier in the War of Ideas/My words would be grenades without their pins/I'd drive a big opinion tank through battlefields of thought/Thinking in the end that I could win."
As expected, Elevenland pulls out all the stops for their I'm-Leaving-You-and-This-Town finale, "Happy Endings", with Ether singing "So I'll take my hat and I'll take my coat/And I'll try to sing my most natural note/And read all those books that our ancestors wrote/Before they all have happy endings." Unfortunately, after the credits fade you feel a bit empty, though definitely happy. Eventually you realize that you want more of same. There isn't much information about this band online, but you can bet that I'll be searching Bleeker Street for Elevenland's The Garden King tomorrow.