I’m listening to the best comedy album I’ve heard in ages, but it isn’t anything Andrew Beckerman recommended. This is Mr. Dream’s debut full-length, Trash Hit, and the Brooklyn trio have me chuckling as much as any stand-up I’ve heard recently. All 13 punchlines are delivered with efficiency and, with one exception, in less than four minutes. Masterful recording picks up everything in the room with crystalline completeness. It’s a performance of absolute dedication worthy of devotion from their forthcoming fanbase.
The impressions in particular are a real highlight. That’s the second funniest part about the post-punk Mr. Dream pedals: This album is good, too good, at aping the brightest moments of The Jesus Lizard, a randomly selected pre-Trompe le Monde Pixies tune, or a litany of numbers from the Big Black or Shellac back catalogs. That’s a lazy list of comparisons, but Mr. Dream is good enough that I had to check to make sure I was listening to the right album more than once. The hard-hitting drums and muscular bass crack the album open on “Trash Hit” and for all of the mimicry I’ve heard of Steve Albini’s work over the years (it’s easy to lose count), this one is right at the top of the order. Singer and guitarist Adam Moerder’s snarling vocal enters in conjunction with a snarling guitar. “It’s,” he draws out with sardonic scorn, “lamentable and / it’s not exactly my cup of tea / but what the hey.” Anyone checking their Twitter feed recently (a lettered analogue to the band’s music) could easily mistaken this for an anti-chillwave anthem. It’s a good foot to put forward.
Just one great impression isn’t great enough for these guys, though. “Crime” is the band’s most recent, most deliberately aggressive single. Kim Deal-like harmonies try to smooth things over right at the end, perfectly timed as one more element brought in to make a two-minute song brimming with ideas feel longer for exactly that reason. “Holy Name” pulls the same trick in a similar timeframe and it’s easy to laugh again here because Trash Hit is right: These songs are junkyard scraps efficiently welded together and sang by Oscar the Grouch. Accoutrements are sparse. “Shotgun Tricks” has a drum effect, but that’s about it — Terius Nash, this ain’t. The approach works because this stuff is catchy in spite of itself. Trash Hit flaunts the idea of hating an easy hook, then winks at you by turning right around to churn them out one after another.
It’s clear they thought through every aspect of their parodies to the point that you get the feeling it’s all some sort of absurd performance art. The sarcastic laugh on “Walter,” the screaming climaxes, guitar noise that just floats around on “Scarred for Life,” the surf lick on “Croquet,” the female harmonies, lyrics about spaceships and scene kids and who knows what else because of those loud-quiet-loud guitars. Moerder screams “seven” over and over on “Holy Name,” for God’s sake! And if the devil is six, Mr. Dream surely knows better.
Which they do, of course. We’re talking about Ivy League products with a National Lampoon background and a healthy helping of brand-defining reviews at your older brother’s Pitchfork. Moerder, bassist Matt Morello and drummer/producer Nick Sylvester are far too knowledgeable and self-aware to not know what’s happening here. They know what they’re playing and they know what we’re going to hear. The reason this album is such a remarkable feat is because they’ve willingly entered some of the most tired territory in rock over the last decade and still manage to make it sound as fresh and exciting and invigorating as the first time you or anyone else you know heard music like this. The funniest part is how that joke is on us, but I’d expect nothing less from these guys. What the hey, indeed. 90 RIFFS