Sometimes in life the best way to do something is to do it yourself. You know, good old D.I.Y. Matt Beat, a quirky Manhattan (Kansas, not New York for all you score keepers out there) embodies the great ideals of being cheap, creative, AND independent all at the same time. The result is a fun little project called Electric Needle Room, now gracing my desks in audio format via the oddly titled My Socks Never Match.
My Socks Never Match is one of those strange albums that is somewhat of a novelty; the lyrics and music never take themselves too seriously, so neither should the listener. And thus, the fun. While most synth-pop bands are content to paint hopelessly complicated soundscapes or wallow in mopey fits of depression, the entity that is the Electric Needle Room never succumbs to these pitfalls. The band's press release talks about how many of the songs were written when Matt was 14, and recorded "primitively" on his parents' karaoke machine. This kind of childish whimsy is what makes My Socks Never Match (combined with mature dedication and unflinching seriousness) makes the album a sort of British humor musical; dry, sarcastic, and joyously light in tone. Most people won't get it until after a few listens, and some won't ever. The point is that some people will enjoy this, simply for how carefree it is.
Take opening track "I Hate the Suburbs." Mixing soaring, poignant melodies with ironic, apathetic vocals, the song's mockery of suburbanite culture is something I've never heard from a synth-pop band. "Dear Celebrities, Thank You For Making the World a Better Place" has an almost Beatles-like aura to the music, all while seemingly lampooning the Hollywood jet set. "They Were Terrified, Yet Calm" is a billowing, delicate interlude of graceful synth instrumentation. The jaunty "High School" is an (delightfully) awkward tale of High School woes. "No Money, No Problems" is a twinkling synth ballad to the joys of suffering debt. Yep, you read that right. "Pain in the Butt" is a colorful painting of whacky noises ala the "Napoleon Dynamite" soundtrack. "Figured Out" is a strong ballad that again owes much to the Beatles. This is how excellent songcraft is done! "The Empty Interior" is upbeat, instrumental synth pop that is just kinda there. "You Don't Know What You're Talking About" is a driving tune that owes a little to Radiohead or even the Eels in tone perhaps.
"Escape" is a retro-minded jam that mixes quirk with substance for a strong song. "Call Her" is strong piano key tapper. "Planets" sounds like goofy lounge music, and I mean that in a complimentary way. "Reality?" is a slow-tempo song that is one of the lesser tracks on the CD. "Killing is Wrong" is a pulsing homage to classic 80's pop, and a very good song to boot. The leftfield curveball that is "You Get What You Don't Deserve" is a fantastic song of morose guitar-strumming, and something I didn't see coming. "Ellie's Song" is a twinkling piece of solid, yet still mildly anti-climatic, pop music.
My Socks Never Match perfectly captures the off-beat sense of humor and even sadness that Electric Needle Room cater to. Despite being recorded in a small room of Matt Beat's house on a simple eight-track, the music is always strong, crisp, and clear production wise. As for the song's themselves, they ride a fine line between campy laughs and oddly touching sadness, all played through a medium of solid songwriting owing to the Beatles, the Eels, and maybe the Cure. Quirky and captivating, My Socks Never Match is solid synth pop that will impress despite (or maybe even because of) its D.I.Y. ethics.
1. I Hate the Suburbs
2. Dear Celebrities, Thank You for Making the World a Better Place
3. They Were Terrified, Yet Calm
4. High School
5. No Money, No Problems
6. Pain in the Butt
7. Figured Out
8. The Empty Interior
9. You Don't Know What You're Talking About
11. Call Her
14. Killing is Wrong
15. You Get What You Don't Deserve
16. Ellie's Song
*Author's Note: Matt Beat's Brother Steve contributed percussion/drums to "Dear Celebrities...," "Pain in the Butt," "You Don't Know..." and "Figured Out."