If I say that an album is quintessentially indie, you’re gonna know exactly the type of album you’re in for. Grand Charade from The Begowatts is quintessentially indie, for better or for worse. Sadly, for this paltry writer, it’s for the worse. As I always ask, hear me out before judging.
Based out of Madison, Wisconsin, The Begowatts are carving out a name for themselves through their stylish 70s era throwback rock & roll mixed with “21st century electric rock & roll.” I see what they’re saying, and more importantly, I hear it in their music. The above quotation is a very apt way to classify their sound. For me, however, it takes the more bland parts of each genre and blends them into something that is ultimately forgettable. *Writers note: You can’t spell bland without band. Haha, I’m so clever!*
Here’s my deep dive.
The song “Why Don’t We Dance” misses some great opportunities. Drummer Dan Carpenter clearly has the best interests of the band in mind. His cymbal hits and stripped down rhythms advance the song in ways that are hard to put into words. If you’re just listening to him, you’re in for a treat. Unfortunately, the rest of the band doesn’t seem to want to follow suit. During the chorus, while vocalist David French sings “Why don’t we dance?” the rest of the band has trouble following where the crash splashes are. Sometimes they’re on, but more often than not, they’re not. At times, the crash cymbal will hit, signifying a punch that feels natural, yet the rest of the band doesn’t reciprocate; they stay in their own soft groove. Other times, you can hear a guitar hammer hard on one note without anyone else accompanying it. To a casual listener, it comes off as very sloppy. It sounds like a song that is half done.
Another thing that drops this album down a few notches is French’s range. It never goes above or below an octave-and-a-half, or two octaves. It works for the first song on the album, “Kids On Parole,” but after that, you get awful tired of it awful quick. I also don’t like the tone. It’s very dad rock. There is no better way I can put it than that.
This is not to say all is bad. They clearly know how to write catchy tunes. As much as I find their arrangements sub-par, their sheer ability in crafting a well written song is gold. After listening to this album a few times, I’d often find bits and pieces of their tunes stuck in my head. And, as stated above, they have some chops, and this doesn’t just relate to Carpenter. I enjoyed the solid guitar solo by French during “Grand Charade” that starts at 4:44, as well as the opening bass lines to “Why Don’t We Dance” by Aaron Androsky. It’s slinky and sexy and certainly made my panties drop. With skills like these cats have, it’s almost a shame to rank this album so low, but such is the life of a reviewer.
Do you agree with my assessment, or am I talking out of my ass? Hit me up in the comments below and tell me what you think!
Written by Aaron Deck
*edited by Danielle Kenedy