The music of All City Affairs sounds like those cheesy pre-set songs that were stored on that cheap Yamaha keyboard you had when you were a kid. Or, putting a more positive spin on it, I could say they kinda sound like early two-man They Might Be Giants. But in reality Bees is not quite as boring or cheesy as the first, yet not nearly as innovative, clever or memorable as the later.
Chicago’s All City Affairs, essentially the one-man-band of Peter Andreadis (also of Baby Teeth), is occupying musical real estate not coveted by too many these days: soft rock. It has drum machines, but not the kind with bumping techno beats or un-human hi-hat work and fills, it just keeps the beat in economical fashion. When real drums are employed in some tracks, it makes little difference. It has guitars, but they are understated, not hip-and-funky, not retro-rocking you with super-fuzz distortion, and not melting your face with solos. The vocals are melodic, but Andreadis’ voice is pretty plain. Not bad, but nothing that really catches. The volume stays pretty low throughout, the tempos stay around the moderato range and nothing gets too chaotic or weird. Your mom would probably like this.
The square reggae of “Fake Soul Singer” is where I first made the TMBG connection, as it sounds a bunch like “Hearing Aid” off of Flood. The title of “Accidental Death of a High School Football Player” first off reminded me of one of my favorite Mountain Goats songs, but alas. Actually it shows off Andreadis’ backing musicians, who appear on half the tracks here in some form, and this one in particular has some decent smooth jazz-style sax licks. The title track bumps the tempo, adds some decent synth sounds, and some upbeat ska-ish guitar to go along with more sax, rocketing it to a low ‘Best Track’ status. Also, it has no vocals -- maybe that’s the key. What I originally thought was “How to Sell a Product” is actually “Grease Up the Rod” (a track order mix-up on the art apparently). Anyway, it’s the closest the album comes to rocking, with falsetto vocals over sci-fi synth, later breaking down to distorted guitars with squawking sax craziness. It was one of the few moments I felt I was listening to cool underground rock music and not some easy listening muzak.
Andreadis’ lyrics are plain-spoken for the most part, dealing with everyday things in everyday language, to the point of annoyance. “Today I’m gonna do my part / To be a productive member of society / Get my haircut at the salon / Cough up twenty dollars for a shampoo” is an example from the slightly funky “Man of Modern Times.” Now I’m no poet, but a lot of his words seem to be clumsily assembled onto the melodies; they are awkward things to sing.
I hadn’t heard too much of Baby Teeth, so I went and checked them out. Their MySpace has a couple songs from their recently-released album The Simp, and they are solid songs for sure. While I’m not too crazy about Bees, All City Affairs has some cooler covers up at their MySpace, including ones by Joanna Newsom, The Boss, and a nice take on Paul McCartney’s “Ram On,” an old favorite of mine. Maybe these point to a more interesting and less bland second album, but we’ll see.