Gary B and the Notions – Get Those Crazy Notions!
Get Those Crazy Notions! is a crazy record in that I’ve been fascinated with it for a while, and it’s taken this long to figure out whether I like the thing or not. I can easily say that the songwriting is unique, the vocals aren’t your usual fare and the songs are genuinely inventive and quirky pop songs, but the question remains: do I like the thing?
I guess the answer lies in the fact that I keep listening to it. It’s not an album that I want to go out and shout about from the rooftops, because as soon as I start to feel the groove on a song, it changes. I start to hear 50’s influences (of which there are a lot), and then I hear some discordant chords that never would have made it into 1956. I hear rhythmic sections that segue straight into really melodic sections, and I just get confused.
For example, the nearly six-minute “Partridge vs. Magpie” crashes in on an electric guitar lead, then lets the bass guitar take over the melody for the verses. Gary B’s wild, boisterous vocals come in, dominating the song with a wild, flailing sound. A pre-chorus comes in, but is lead out by not the chord that should be leading out. It leads into a ‘chorus’ of sorts, anchored by an ooo-ahs and organ. The ‘chorus’ ushers in a new section of song that doesn’t sound familiar to anything that came before it. I have slowly come to a realization that there isn’t actually a chorus in “Partridge vs. Magpie” – it’s just a winding pop journey that begins in one place and rarely doubles back on itself.
“Taller than a Human” is another song whose songwriting throws me for a loop. It starts off as a mid-tempo, nostalgic electric-guitar-led pop song. The chorus drops in with “I got the news today/from the Holy Spirit/I am taller than a human/being,” but is followed with a weird, repetitive, and completely unexpected mood shift in which Gary B monotones “I am taller than a human, baby” eight times.
In a world where pop songs have become formulaic, it’s shocking and a little bit uncomfortable to hear pop songs that actually break the mold and do something interesting. It’s even more shocking when songwriters do something new not by adding layers, but by simply being really, really good guitar songwriters.
In the realm of pop music, Gary B is one of the most unique songwriters I’ve heard. His songs are so good that it takes a while to appreciate how simply good they are – it’s easy to just pass them off as weird and forget about ‘em. But that’s just not doing it justice. The seven songs on Get Those Crazy Notions! are odd, jarring, punchy, unique and wonderful. Who knows – after several more listens I may be shouting Gary B and the Notions from the rooftops. Only time will tell.