Okay, Okay, Bert, I'll Clean It Up So Clean You Wouldn't Recognize It

By dean

Ah. There you are. Here lies the first installment of an occasional series no one likes to call, Hey This Stuff Ain't Bad When You Really Think About It And If You Disagree With Me I'll Pants You (H.T.S.A.B.W.Y.R.T.A.I.A.I.Y.D.W.M.I.P.Y.). Rejoice. Or at least name your first child after me.

Regardless, the first subject to be victim to this new exercise should be clear by the column title. I'm talking about Schubert Dip. Yes, the EMF album. Yes, the rock/dance/indie/TAKE THAT hybrid. Yes, the CD that will cause eyes to roll when you yank it out to stop your friend from playing his RADIOHEAD singles. Yes, the one with "Sesame Street" samples. Yes, the album that will. not. get. you. laid.

Well, some things are worth it for awhile. Schubert Dip might not score you credibility or mattress shenanigans, but -- you guessed it -- it's actually not that bad. Come on. Go get it. Stop going through Moon Safari for the 300th time and shave off that "post-rock" pony-tail and go get it. Don't trust me? Fine.

Just remember the start of it all. Those building trills and over-saturated, Prince-aping backing vocals. A nice intro, it is. And then when it hits you with a slam of buzzing drums, pre-CHEMICALS sirens, and frantic guitar loops charging head-long into only the first gasping verse...there's no sane reason not to crack a smile.

And why shouldn't you? Huge dollops of energy are splattered all over this album. From mixing 60's summery pop with sample-based hip-hop with indie-led eclecticism with loved-up acid house (yeah, sorta an odd kitchen of distinct Norman Cooks), there was a feeling that this group of youngins were not so much pioneering much of anything, but they were just chucking everything onto a giant musical graffiti splatter without any post-modern, post-interesting context that it all just sounded so, well, fun.

Songs like "When You're Mine" with its clean slams of rhythm, or "Admit It" with its gleeful jabs of animosity, are infectious in the very best sense of the word. Even the clanky "Long Summer Days" or the satiated "Lies" instantly run around inside your noggin' without one vengeful regret. After awhile, these songs made it seem as if this newly-formed band knew they were willing to sacrifice the nefarious "complex" and "respected" tags of some of their peers just so they could shake some serious cross-genre booty.

What chat, though, wouldn't be complete without mentioning the album's single albatross, "Unbelievable"? Yeah, yeah, it was the "Bittersweet WonderLaid 2" of its time, but even this over-played, over-exposed piece of toasted hip-pop still has its moments. A decent groove. A capable mix. And a multi-national success with a sample that still says, "What the fuck was that?" Unfortunately, it admittedly remains to feel like a sore spot in the middle of this otherwise enjoyable little album.

Back to better lights, the rolling "Believe" should also be unimpressive but seems to work on sheer gumption and simplicity while something like "Long Summer Days" clanks in like some DEPECHE MODE-with-a-sense-of-humour club stomp. Don't get me wrong, though, a song like "Girl of An Age" really eliminates the track 6 frowning and utterly steals the show. What a treat. A song that's simply a great piece of Madchester-bred, heavy-lovin' mania with just the right set of fluttering grooves and baggy twinkles. Even more, the band sneak in their beliefs: "We know we can have it all / Upon the heads of our youthful charms."

The album fared quite well in live situations as well. Sure the early shows had them cranking out "Unbelievable" about 3 times per night, but the shameless energy of the band was nothing to mock (they were also allegedly signed from their very first gig). Manic light-shows, Adidas-clad James Atkin bounding around the stage like he took those INSPIRAL CARPETS' "Cool As Fuck" T-shirts way too seriously, band members chucking sequencers and drum-kits all over the place, and a sound-crashing blitzkrieg conclusion of the already-complimented "Children" were worth every moment of future peer derision.

And to this day it's hard to admit to like this album. While bands like THE SPACE MONKEYS or DELAKOTA are wringing their hands trying to throwback to this Madchester dance fusion, EMF did it with nary a second thought about eight years ago. For a number of reasons. One, they were all still young enough to still exude that who-cares-what-you-think playful optimism of the (now) celebrated era. Two, they were lucky enough not to have to rely on nostalgia so much and instead just look around for recent influence. But most importantly -- and if you believe absolutely nothing else -- because they really sincerely had an instinct for through and true hooks.

Have we lost it? Sure the band had the looks of an early 90's N-SYNC at times, but they still had the talents of any unpretentious genre-splicer around today. At least we'll never see them putting out a 4-disc album for "quadrophonic" purposes. They were too busy bouncing around anyway. EMF knew how to craft an addictive and charming song...and that's a huge talent in this day and age. Let it be said, then: EMF retain a pop sensibility (naïve or not) that will not -- should not -- go unnoticed.

So it doesn't matter what anybody thinks, it doesn't matter what you think. Schubert Dip is an ecstasy-charged, fantastic, mutherfucker of an album. And if you don't agree, you better have a tight hold on those belt loops, my friend. I'm coming after ya.