Review Summary: Supermegaunderwhelming
"A Few Words About Minimalism", an article published by American novelist John Barth in 1986, spells out the author's many notions of literary minimalism, and, in doing so praised many past and present pioneers of the style. Barth first (and semi-ironically) defines minimalism as the idea that "artistic effect may be enhanced by a radical economy of artistic means, even where such parsimony compromises other values", though quickly reinforces his claim via the age-old motto of "less is more." Though the article does in fact carry on at length to stake and justify all of Barth's claims, his underlying premise regarding art and literature is quite clear: strip away the superfluous, make sure every inclusion holds substantial importance, and utilize omissions wisely in creating a strong, meaningful end product. Indie rock maintains some of these conditions as axiomatic, with many of its finest acts over the years (The National
, Wye Oak
, The Joy Formidable
, to name just a few) casting their music in the stripped-down, straightforward manner of which Barth speaks. The idea seems easy enough to wrap one's head around - less has got to mean more, right? Well, not necessarily.
Now seems like an opportune time to introduce IAMDYNAMITE. The noisy duo, comprised of Raleigh natives Christopher Martin and Chris Phillips... well it just about suffices to say that they don't exactly get it. The whole concept of "less is more," while imposing a noticeable effect on the tracks of debut LP Supermegafantastic
, has been approached by Chris & Chris in a rather half-assed fashion. On one hand, all the prominent indie rock facets appear to be present - the crisp, upbeat drum patterns; the catchy, well executed two-man vocals; the edginess that drives teenage girls clad in Urban Outfitters sundresses and Ray-Ban wayfarers onto couches and into bedrooms - they're all here. What's missing, however, accounts for the less impressive side of Supermegafantastic
. Any student of Minimalism 101 should realize that what is included in the art form at hand needs to carry enough weight to make up for the surrounding simplicity and lack of lavishness. Casting vagueness aside, it's evident that the band who couldn't be bothered to use the space bar also failed to utilize anything above elementary songwriting practices. It's as if IAMDYNAMITE doubted the importance of well thought-out lyrics, and their music really suffers as a result. The irrefutably danceable rhythms, the buoyant melodies - both fall almost completely by the wayside at the hands of repetitive, elementary lyrical efforts.
'Hi Lo', a track whose name fits just a little too well, serves as an excellent example of where these guys simultaneously soar and stutter. The use of standalone vocals a separate instrument displays impressive levels of confidence and maturity that typically elude so young a band. Unfortunately, the obnoxiously over-simplified lyrics are difficult to ignore and even more difficult to take seriously, with such attempted hooks as "you take me high, you take me low/you take me anywhere you go!
" quickly squandering what promise was to be had in the track. The bridge of 'O.E.O.', in its repetition of "woke up this morning', grabbed my gun/told my mama what I had done
," comes off with a very similar effect, rendering the listener dismayed, dissatisfied, and disbelieving. Minimalism can't accommodate such redundancy without subtracting from the offbeat, "stripped-down" feel which it tries to achieve.
In short, IAMDYNAMITE say a little too much on their debut, all whilst failing to actually mean
enough. A few definitively minimalistic characteristics have made their way onto Supermegafantastic
, sure, yet the bigger picture is never truly realized. The potential at hand and its chance to blossom are nipped by the record's more outstanding deficiencies. Perhaps what Martin and Phillips need is a more clear-cut sense of purpose with their songs, as opposed to their present melee-based approach. Such underlying ambition could really add some backbone to their songwriting, allowing any future effects to BLOW UP
in a good way, instead of just floating atop the stagnant banks of mediocrity below.