Band Name: Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start
Album Name: Worst Band Name Ever
Best Element: Charming indie-pop band ends its bright, catchy songs much too early
Dewy-eyed hipsters, rejoice! The chiming acoustic guitar, softly distorted rhythm guitar and pulsing bass rhythms of Worst Band Name Ever by Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start are very reminiscent of the mood and feel of Death Cab for Cutie’s cult classic The Photo Album. Many of you will go buy the album right now on the strength of that comparison. For those a little more discerning, read on.
Another similarity between the two bands is that both have great indie-pop songwriters with lush, dreamy arrangements in mind heading them up. But the two bandleaders diverge in songwriting form. Where Photo-era Ben Gibbard had great ideas that occasionally got dragged out too long, Worst-era Steve Poponi has great ideas that don’t get dragged out long enough; most songs hover around two minutes, with four of the ten ending under that mark. Occasionally it feels like it takes longer to say the band’s enormous, video-game inspired name (it’s a cheat code on NES Contra) correctly than to listen to one of the band’s songs.
That wouldn’t be so bad, except that these songs don’t feel like they’re over when they’re over. “Fell in Love With a Girl” by the White Stripes is a full song jammed into under two minutes – Up Up Down Down’s “I’ll Thank You Later” feels like half of a song. It’s a great half-song – but because the warm vocal melodies and the soothing mood could be extended much longer, the song seems abandoned mid-stride.
And that’s the whole problem with this album – the bright moods are so good that it doesn’t seem fair to have all the songs be short. The only four comfortably long pieces are “Am I a Cricket?”, “Gas Station Hair,” “The Red Loop” and “Boise.” It’s not that they’re the four longest pieces (“Boise” is only 2:10) – it’s the fact that the ideas are thoroughly developed, modified and put to bed. It feels right.
“Boise” is the best track here, as it crams multiple moods and a fist-pumping chorus into 2:10 without feeling awkward, rushed or choppy. It lets tension ebb and flow, resulting in a very uplifting, enjoyable song. Following much the same formula, “The Red Loop” also succeeds.
If you have a short attention span and want to hear some undeniably hook-laden, charming and beautiful indie-pop, Worst Band Name Ever is for you. If you get frustrated at good ideas left undeveloped, you may want to avoid this one – it will cause you more grief than comfort.