In an infamous episode of South Park, the boys go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which they leave early, screaming and crying that their beloved Indy got raped. This is nothing new for South Park; to ridicule those they despise in the most gruesome manor is their style, but we can we not all agree that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was just plain awful? There is no better way to express how horrid the film was than the way SP did, and this is exactly how I felt when I first listened to POP ETC’s new album.
POP ETC, who were previously known as the Morning Benders, were a Brooklyn-San Francisco indie rock group with a promising future, but changed their name recently because of the word “bender” being a slander word in the U.K. against homosexuality. I get what they’re doing by trying to promote equality and the all-around respect to everyone, but to change the name to something that sounds like a Justin Bieber album was just odd. Although some great bands do have horrible names, in this case, the music is just as annoying, pathetic and ridiculous as the new band name.
The Morning Benders’ sophomore album, Big Echo, was a collection of fazed-surf rock with pretty melodies that served as an original stand-out of 2010. Big Echo was produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, and together with Morning Benders’ frontman and main writer, Chris Chu, they fit together perfectly. The beauty and break-out of Big Echo gave a positive outlook for the future of the band, although this assumption was wrong…too wrong.
Basically, POP ETC sounds more like a side project fpr Chu rather than a new LP; the album consists of cheesy synth pop jams along with corny song titles such as “I Wanna Be Your Man“ and "Back To Your Heart." The amount of Auto-Tune and odd use of Chu’s voice is unbarring, in which it seems that POP ETC could be the new Owl City record and no one would notice. In previous albums, the full band was present, where all other than a faint guitar is absent in this new album. In a recent interview, Chu stated that the band was changing their sound and was completely content with it. There’s nothing wrong with change; hell, every Beck album has its own original sound from funky grooves to slow melodramatic rock, but they all work and the fans never left. I give Chu credit for changing, but how can fans of the Morning Benders stand by this release? What he’s doing is slapping them in the face, pretty much saying, “Screw y’all. I want the tweens to love me. I want the Top 40. I want a million YouTube hits. I want the big time.”
To the positive side, POP ETC might have potential in the future. "Might" is the key word there. I’m all for the occasional snyth-pop and Chu is quite a musician; his songwriting is solid, along with a good voice. Though, with POP ETC, his use of his voice has dwindled to something faint in quality and downright annoying. I just ask, “What happened?” This makes me think that everything the Morning Benders were was for naught. They’re trying something new and all the power to ‘em, but I’m not following this stuff. The album is just bad and borderline awful. To me it’s this: The Morning Benders were one thing, POP ETC another. I’ll jam out to the first two Morning Benders albums still enjoying what they were and whatever POP ETC releases in the future, I’ll give it a try, but there is a strong possibility that Big Echo was the final peak of greatness.