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Published: 2005/02/04
by Jesse Jarnow

Corn Syrup Conspiracy – SeepeopleS


You will probably like SeepeopleS. Maybe that's presumptuous, but the SeepeopleS are just an eminently likeable band (random capital-S be darned) — and not in some pandering happyhappyhappy let's-all-sing-along/groove together kind of way. They are a likeable band because they make music that is memorable, intelligent, and fun to listen to. Even the occasional anti-corporate clichrom lyricist (and leader) Will Bradford seems necessary rather than calculated.

"Here come the butchers to cut you into profit / Innocent people turned into military targets," he sings on the infectious "Butchers." It's a sentiment all-too-common in art in these post-hope years. "The kids taste the poison, the lies become rooted," Bradford concludes, "don't ask why, it still tastes good." Ah, yes, and we have just about Achieved Title, though Bradford never comes out with it explicitly. Instead, it becomes a prism for the rest of the album (like the liner note depiction of culture's vivid rainbow pouring through the screen of a vintage television). If the idea of critiquing Wonder Bread America (an image evoked on the cover) is a little stale, so be it, it gives the Corn Syrup Conspiracy (and Bradford & co.‘s talents) a unity of purpose.

The lyrics make their best impact when the spectrum abstracts. "Man will win the battle of man vs. humanity, man vs. honesty," he sings. "Man will win the battle of man vs. anything, man vs. anyone. But who needs anyone?" And, for half-a-second, the political (or quasi-political) opens up into the emotional, via a little linguistic loophole. Cool.

But who listens to lyrics, anyway?

Though Bradford's studio bandmates are completely different from 2002's For the Good of the Nation (he’s since reunited with the original lineup), it is producer Will Holland that truly allows Bradford to focus his ideas. The Corn Syrup Conspiracy is a rich kaleidoscope of sounds. And though the keyboards (and their accompanying plug-ins) sometime sound a little too standard issue, they are still (almost) wholly effective. "Everything Goes Away" begins as a vague existentialist electronic ballad (like a hippie Postal Service), but layers of synths and vocals prevail, the song’s build slow and mesmerizing.

Mostly, though, it's just fun in that way Rage Against the Machine or Dark Side of the Moon can be fun. Though not really sounding much like Pink Floyd (except maybe some Egyptian-fevered "Interstellar Overdrive" jam) the impact of the disc-opening "Dog Days" is right outta Roger Waters’ playbook. Following a spoken invocation, the song basically careens into a four minute climaxing with chanted vocals: "Eat, sleep, breathe, work til you drop." Bradford finds moments like this throughout: the semi-barbershop/ambient noise pleaser "Nothing Left To Pawn," the chorus of the above-mentioned "Butchers," the Shins-like verse to "Dinosaur."

Bradford and the SeepeopleS aren't quite making mature music yet. Though Bradford is surely sincere, his songwriting isn't quite eloquent enough to express it. But he's well on his way having already accumulated the skills of a charming melodicist, clever lyricist, and an ambitious bandleader. I think you'll like the Corn Syrup Conspiracy.

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