Listening to Shock of Being, Make Believe's first full length album, I was initially struck with how the whole thing appeared disjointed. The songs came across as if each part-the vocals, the guitars, the drums-were all taped independently of each other and then thrown together to make an album. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the first line of the first song begins 'Do you feel safe at home?' All of it made me feel very uncomfortable like I was somewhere I shouldn't have been. It became hard work to even get through the album.
But then the funniest thing happened. I was sitting at work and in the middle of the mind numbing data entry that plagues me every day there it was. Creeping into my mind, slowly making its way to my mouth, and I do it. I start singing. (Not loud, mind you, I don't want to be That Guy in the office. There is already one of those and let's just say people go the other way when they see him coming to leave the water cooler.) This album left an indelible impression on me. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm listening to this album as I'm writing this and it makes me happy.
That isn't to say that there aren't parts of this album that could be better. I'm not a huge fan of any of the previous incarnations of Make Believe. Fronted by Tim Kinsella, a person can look back at his string of previous bands (Cap'n Jazz begat Joan of Arc begat Owls begat Make Believe) and if you aren't impressed by that record then this record probably isn't for you. The lyrics can become distracting at times calling attention to themselves. Kinsella seems almost to make a point of subverting meaning. ('Bananamoon. Swallow my throat. / Octopus flower. Buffalo wing goat.' from the song "Fumio Nambata Had a Farm EE-I-EE-I-O" springs to mind.) That said, there are other times when I can't help but smile at the words. ('Someone's taught the cat to moonwalk and it's become a real show-off.' from "Small Apartment Party Epiphany" still makes me laugh.) This album isn't radio friendly and isn't something you're going to put on when you slip into a bath with a bottle of wine. It is an album that is going to challenge you to open yourself up to it.
I can't stress enough how good this album is. I realize now that the disjointedness that had bothered me on the first listen is actually a testament to how tight the band is. Songs are allowed to run amok but they are tightly reined, controlled, well executed examples of music running amok that is not only challenging but a good listen. It makes you reconsider how you think about music. It may be irresponsible for me to make sweeping (immature?) statements like that but I mean it in the fun-house-mirror sort of way. When you look in the fun house mirror, you know that you should see yourself but you are given a distorted view. You have to reorient yourself to accept that image. And maybe that is where the band takes their name. You have to open up to music that isn't the ordinary or the norm. Music existing outside of "reality." Ethereal music that doesn't and shouldn't exist for everyone. I appeal to the reader to accept the Make Believe. Give them a chance…a chance to make you That Guy in your place of work.