Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Honest Mistakes write guitar pop and poignant lyrics that don't mesh

July 19, 2010

One of the great things about The Honest Mistakes Break Up is that it’s a breakup album with little to no wallowing in depressing sounds. The members of The Honest Mistakes made an upbeat pop album with jangly guitars, cheery organs, snappy drums and tambourines to chronicle their breakup (or breakups). While this is a refreshing take on the breakup album (seriously, I only need one Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space), the music nearly indicates at some points that breakups are flippant or even to be celebrated. It’s a bit incongruous.

The lyrics are firmly grounded in breakupland, (“days all measured in defeat/nights spent wandering the streets” from the musically perky “Feel Good”), meaning they’re sometimes at odds with the music. Even “If It Isn’t Me,” the most heartbreaking lyric on the album, has an upbeat feel.

The songs themselves are great. The jangly guitars support buoyant vocal melodies and tight harmonies; the rhythm section holds its own nicely. The songs range from charmingly twee (“Tell Everybody,” complete with whistling and tap dancing) to bouncy (“Long Way Around,” which is a highlight) to beach-party-groovin’ (the excellent “Stay”).

If these songs were paired with any other set of lyrics (like, perhaps, Fountains of Wayne’s Welcome Interstate Managers, which draws off corporate suburban America for lyrical matter), this would be an amazing album. The songs themselves are awesome, but the juxtaposition with the lyrics is odd and difficult for me to get over. If you’re one of those people who never hears lyrics anyway, jump all over The Honest Mistakes Break Up. You will wordlessly hum the totally poppy tunes and necessarily be summery and enthused. It’s just that type of wonderful album. But if you’re a lyric-ponderer, this will leave you scratching your head. You’ll still tap your toe, but with confusion.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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