With Love and Squalor will resonate with the university counter-culture. Those of us who like to believe we’re geeky, yet awkwardly sexy, can really relate to this album. Lead singer/guitarist Keith Murray, bassist Chris Cain, and drummer Michael Tapper met at Pomona University in Los Angeles, and soon after matriculation, defected to New York City. From interviews it seems as though this group prides themselves on being pseudo-intellectual, and they appear to answer some questions with a thesaurus. Nevertheless their pedantic ways do make for some interesting lyrics, and they sing about what college kids talk of most: identity crises, drinking in excess and getting laid. Perhaps that is true of most rock bands, but their music is appealing as it inadvertently champions the underdog.
How can you resist a line like, “Twenty years of bad decisions hasn’t taught me much”? And when many of us have experienced little outside the ivory tower, we can certainly identify with the lyrics, “Another textbook situation / Everything I think I know I’ve read.” But don’t let their self-deprecating and offbeat sense of humor mislead you. They have absolutely taken off in the U.K. All of the British venues on their European tour have unanimously sold out and were aired on the BBC.
In fact, my first impression was that they were a British band, and the musicians sheepishly admitted that most New Yorkers make the same assumption. In addition to the grungy Brit punk flavor, there is a hint of Weezer inspiration. There are beats that will get you in the mood for going out, striking out, and kissing the bottle goodnight. The words, “My body is your body / I won’t tell anybody / If you want to use my body / Go for it- yeah,” may not be the cleverest rhyme scheme, but the rhythm and message certainly boost the libido. To cure drinker’s remorse, or pump up an after hours party, blasting “The night is young / I’m blackin’ out / But it’s been fun,” would do the trick. Plus there is a shout out to the harlots with, “I won’t let your lousy reputation throw me off.”
Although some songs strain too hard in the effort to be catchy singles, certain ones are legitimately worth the listen. The only drawback of the album is that there are no low-key tracks to modulate its manic intensity. However, I think it is our duty as students to support artists with perfectly legitimate degrees who aspire to rock stardom.