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I Love Math - Getting to the Point is Beside It

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Artist: I Love Math

Album: Getting to the Point is Beside It

Label: Glurp

Review date: Jun. 9, 2008

John Dufhilo, of the Deathray Davies, has a knack for radiantly catchy pop melodies sung with just enough weariness and couched in just enough abrasiveness to wring the sweetness out. His Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory is one of my favorite underrated pop records – smart, full of memorable melodies and balanced on the fine line between power pop and garage.

The good news is that his new project, I Love Math, is very much more of the same, though perhaps with a bit more of a country slant. The "same" part is not surprising – the Deathray Davies has always been Dufhilo and whoever else was around, and he's brought two other ex-Deathrays (Jason Garner and Andy Lester) into his new band. The country part also makes sense. The non-Deathray guy in I Love Math is Phillip Peeples, the drummer from the Old 97s.

The rootsiest song comes first, as the whine of lap steel, the tangle of banjo, the shuffle of country two-step take "Some Bridges Are For Burning" into Americana territory. The break near the end, with its wavery bent guitar notes and snare-heavy lilt, would sound just fine on a Bloodshot Records album, but it also features the literate, self-deprecating irony of a contemporary singer-songwriter.

As the album goes on, it seems to shake off its country guise and resemble pure pop. "Only Clowns are Scary" has the same two-based rhythm, again with the lap steel and banjo, but it sounds completely contemporary. And by the time you get to "I've Seen Better Days," with its shivery keyboards and shouted-out chorus, you are back in classic Deathrays mode, where the pure joy of pop instrumentation combines with wistful lyrical content. Like all good pop, these songs are indeterminate in mood, changing temperature depending on what you bring to the experience. "I've seen…better days," Dufhilo croons in his worn-smooth, what-are-you-gonna-do shrug of a voice, as the drums break into a celebratory fill. It is impossible to say whether this is a happy song or a sad one, and that's part of its charm.

"Josephine Street,” with its samples of girls speaking French, could be about love or what happens next. The upsweeping melody and handclapped rhythms argue for happiness, the plaintive guitar solo and melancholy vocals for heartache. But either way, it's a very pretty song, perfect for lying in bed thinking about the one beside you… or the one that got away.

The second half of the album is dotted with gem-like, fuzzy pop songs, a bit more vulnerable and tattered than Dufhilo's obvious influence, Guided By Voices, less exuberant than his bosses at Apples in Stereo (for whom he plays drums). "The Shape of the Sum,” "Run Back Inside" and "Too Many Demons" push the rock element forward with rough-toned guitar and giddy ’60s keyboards, yet the sweetness comes through in three of the album's best melodies.

It's hard to articulate what makes Getting to the Point is Beside It such a pleasure, the same way you might not be able to explain why you like chocolate ice cream. There are plenty of albums that are more challenging, but this is a small-scale effort that is extremely well executed.

By Jennifer Kelly

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