September 30, 2004

63 Crayons "Good People"

Apparently, the glory days of the Athens (Georgia, for those who
actually don't know) indiepop scene are over. Since I've never been to Athens, this didn't really dawn on me until I read message board posts and news articles about the Athens Popfest this past summer. One article that I read made the Popfest sound like an almost futile effort to relive those days of promise and great concert attendance numbers of the '90s. Like all the great Athens bands of the past have either broken up or left.

Okay, Kindercore folded, I'll give you that. The notion of the Elephant 6 collective seems dead, and it appears that Jeff Mangum will never release another album of new, original music. I'll grant you that, too. But is it really that dismal? Does Athens have nothing else to offer the music world?


That's it. The malaise is in your head, for what you don't realize is that new musical forces have sprung up in Athens to replace the fallen heroes of the '90s. And they are worthy!

One of the newest manifestations of the great indiepop power of Athens that shall never die is 63 Crayons. Their debut album is Good People, a great mishmash of poppy catchiness and awesome psychedelia. Good People is evidence that the Elephant 6 torch has merely been passed, and not extinguished. 63 Crayons will remind listeners of Of Montreal, since there is an element of whimsy on this album and because they use a lot of the same instrumentation (guitar-synth/organ-drums with touches of xylophone and other random things). Still, 63 Crayons is that and so much more. It also seems that they've actually gone back and listened to the standards '60s bands that influenced Elephant 6 (The Beatles, Beach Boys, etc.), as well as '80s college rock and new wave.

The album itself sounds like a concept album, but it really isn't one as far as I can tell. Good People convincingly goes from straight, upbeat pop to crazy psychedelia and back again in the drop of a hat. Starting from the little bit of vaguely circus music on "Sam's Pancake Breakfast" and going right into the rocking, partly new wave-inspired shot of energy that is "Song for my Sister", the whole thing is just a wonderful ride. It can either be appreciated as a cohesive whole or a collection of singles. Standout singles include the whimsical, very Of Montreal-like romp that is "Walking", the hyper "Mrs. Brewster" with the great scream-along chorus ("Poor Mrs. Brewster, she's on fire!"), and "Mice and Feathers", on which frontman Charlie Johnston hands over lead vocal duties to Suzanne Allison and she sings catchy female pop vocals on top of a punky guitar riff. You might also appreciate the hyper-psychedelic track 12, the first part of which is "All Songs at Once" (yes, that's just what it implies), and the second part of which is "Suzy Eats an Apple", on which you can hear band member Suzanne eats an apple amidst an avant-garde backdrop of bird sounds, bells, and ambient guitar drones. It's not as pretentious as it sounds, and it makes a nice interlude just before the slow, psychedelic finisher, "Popcorn".

This really is a great album, and I hope that it'll help, at least in part, to revive hope in the Athens music scene. And if you're living in the Athens area, I hope you'll get your head out of whatever hole you have it in and go see them!

--Eric Wolf

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