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Elf Power - Walking With the Beggar Boys

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Artist: Elf Power

Album: Walking With the Beggar Boys

Label: Orange Twin

Review date: Jun. 28, 2004

Elf Power’s brief tenure as a cover band seems to have dried up most of its mod-psych pretensions, and left us an easygoing, straight-ahead midtempo rock band. Walking With the Beggar Boys has so few bells and whistles that it might not make it through your earwax on the first listen, but these songs are the most rewarding the band has created. When they’re already lodged in your cranium, playing them again brings both smug satisfaction and a host of new angles.

Although I’m still a tad disappointed that “Never Believe” isn’t a Ministry cover, it’s my favorite song right now, and you don’t have to ask why for me to tell you. I cherish breezy, seemingly cheery pop songs that pack abysmally depressing lyrics. I put up with a lot of passive-aggressive bullshit from self-pitying assclowns, such as Morrissey, if they tender what I crave on that score. “Never Believe” commences a rattlesnake snare, cheeseball keyboards and lines straight out of a generic flick-a-Bic anthem: “It’s always getting clearer / It’s coming through to me / Can you hear it in your ear / When you are fast asleep?” So what’s the good news? Are the kids taking over the classrooms? Is Sally back in town? Skip to the chorus: “It’s crumbling down / And it’s rotting away / And you’re wanting to leave / But you’ll never escape.” Bliss.

“Hole In My Shoe” is almost this catchy and despondent, so that’s my second favorite song on this day, at this hour. "The Cracks" has the saddest lyric of the bunch, but the faux-creepy IDM high jinks knock it down a notch.

Apocalyptic forebodings aside, Andrew Reiger remains the Ralph Wiggum of rock. Unlike his colleagues Jeff Mangum and Kevin Barnes, Reiger doesn’t get his mail in some parallel universe. He’s on the same train as the rest of us. He’s simply more interested in the gold tooth caught in the dried wad of bubblegum under the seat than he is in the scenery. He knows what he wants to say, and he says it, and it always makes sense in a tragically Buddhistic way.

Two key tracks on Beggar Boys, “The Stranger” and the title tune, read like boozy, half-recalled anecdotes. Where most people would lie to lend the tales some continuity, Reiger plugs in something such as “Love is just a dream / You know I never got no sleep” when he can’t remember which beggar boy said what to whom. When the stranger dematerializes in front of him, “Part of him just ran away / The other part won’t move.” Reiger doesn’t complain and doesn’t explain, but suggests you “Take a look inside your head / And tell me what you see / Is the stranger waiting there / Singing you to sleep?” The song dips straight into Heather McIntosh’s cello break, and yeah, there’s the stranger, forgiving us for not getting it.

By Emerson Dameron

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