The Littlest Man Band - Better Book Ends (Cover Artwork)

The Littlest Man Band

Better Book Ends (2004)

At the Helm

It's sad how today bands rarely produce albums, merely a compilation of singles and mediocre songs. Fortunately, Better Book Ends isn't one of these albums. "The Preface" starts off with vocalist Scotty Klopenstein of Reel Big Fish saying that he wants to be the star for once and prove that he can rock just as hard. But if you're expecting another Reel Big Fish or Forces of Evil as I was, this isn't one of them. Granted, it does sound a lot like "Drunk Again" from Reel Big Fish, which is also sung by Klopenstein.

The first true song on the album, "Always Sayin'" shows that the Littlest Man Band isn't about happy little horn ditties or lyrics saying "fuck" for no reason. Real lyrics about emotions, minor chords, and musical depth were what came out of my iTunes. However, Better Book Ends isn't just an emo I-hate-life-so-let's-play-the same-chords-and-yell-a-lot album; if anything it's actually closer to jazz, lounge, or alternative. There's really no way to describe what genre they are. "Stayed Away Too Long" is the first to prove that they can write happy songs too and that little Scotty Klopenstein has an amazing voice.

Following is "Bad That Is Beautiful," a more somber and personal song showing off Klopenstein's falsetto. "Happened Again" changes the tone completely with one of the weirdest songs I've ever heard, and one of the coolest; featuring driving piano, odd pre-recorded background vocals, it almost gives off a kind of Kan Kan-type feeling during certain parts. "Maybe I" is next which is a great sulking, "I'm all alone" song with great guitar riffs appearing to save it from boredom, and original lyrics to boot. The Sinatra-like, part white-soul / part slow lounge song "Sunshine" follows to bring out a bit of happiness. Cap on the amazingly sublime acoustic horn-filled "Better Man," then follow it with the super "It's You" and you have a near-perfect album and an amazing experience.

Better Book Ends should be experienced only as a full album, although the songs themselves are truly exquisite. It is unclear as whether or not a second album is to come from TLMB, but if there is they've set the bar very high.