Not An Airplane has been here at The Inept Owl for longer than I have. Each time they’ve had a record release, a new writer would take up the review.
I don’t know if this means that they are our honorary introduction music, to be plugged into people’s heads as they type in our web address, but it’s a special thing, nonetheless.
Now, the mantle comes down to me, as I review their latest, “Things and People”.
It’s a tricky thing to review the work of a band already reviewed by your peers. You don’t want to rely on the other reviews because A) It’s not fair to subject a musician to the past, especially when they are on the indie circuit evolving their sound, and B) It’s boring to read the same review twice.
At the same time, you can’t help but want to see what your peers have said about this band. It’s not that I want to beat out John O’Rourke’s review or Darby Shaw’s review. I just wanted to keep some sort of continuity.
So, what is Not An Airplane, besides an easy ploy to say what it is not? Think of their music as what would have happened if Jerry Garcia and Garth Brooks had kids, with each other or by sperm-splicing and impregnating a woman. It’s both an aesthetic and sound kind of melding, and can be really funny if you think about it because hippies and cowboys don’t really mesh at all. Could you imagine John Wayne at Woodstock baked out of his mind and dancing in a mud pit buck-naked except for a cowboy hat on his head and a bandana around his neck? Actually, I just did.
In the visual department, I watched a quick video link on their MySpace page, and throughout the whole video I couldn’t get over the fact that guitarist/vocals/front-man Nick Shattell and string-plucker Daniel Harris didn’t have shoes on. Sure, the bassist has a cowboy hat on and the drummer looks like Michael Cera, but the lack of shoes made me wonder, “Where did their shoes go? Does the cowboy bassist have boots on, or is he barefoot too? Could Michael Cera, or anyone for that matter, play the drums barefoot? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY DON’T THEY HAVE SHOES ON?!”
The music has just as broad a dynamic. As has been said by reviews past, this music is:
Hard to classify
Too true. This is a talented band not easily cubby-holed, as the album has folk, country, and blues elements mixed together to form something enjoyable to listen to. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this. The advantage to having a broader range of style is that different types of people can get hooked into different songs. The disadvantage to that, besides annoying PR representatives that are trying to find one song to put on the radio, is that a listener may become distracted if one of his/her favorite genre songs isn’t on at the moment, which leads the listener to get a drink/go to the bathroom/hook up with a date, aka “stop paying attention to the band”.
If we have to classify, the best I can come up with is what Darby Shaw called “alterna-country.” However, it’s the songs that don’t quite fit that genre that I enjoyed best of all.
“As He Walked Away” and “Nobody Wins” have catchy, dare I say, poppy feels to them. The funny thing is that the lyrics are pretty depressing. I liked this, as I heard faint reminders of an old favorite, Neutral Milk Hotel. The clash of subliminal opposites always makes for fun-filled emotional roller-coasters, so kudos for that.
“Resolution & Rage” has a banjo and country croon to it, but at the same time there’s a certain Dave Matthews prevalence that lightens the banjo plucking. Luckily, Nick’s voice is easier to deal with than Dave’s.
“Enough” is a prerequisite ballad, but I didn’t feel like a total tool listening to it. Again, it comes down to the interesting lyrics and an embedding of different musical stylings into one song that makes even saying “ballad” not as cheesy as it normally would be.
Song to buy on iTunes for $1: Well, the national release of the album is slated for May 11th, but if you live in the California area, you can probably just get the whole album now at one of their shows. I’d recommend “As He Moved Away”. It has the most going on as a song, and features just how versatile this band is.
I give this album 3 out of 5 renegade hippies running after this plane thing.