Page 2 of 2
Now we have Small Victories, a brightly detailed, adventurous solo album on which Brown played all the instruments. This begs the question of why a band member who writes all the songs needs to make a solo album.
"That's a good question," Brown says. "I think Fullbloods is — I can't play the instruments like the guys in Fullbloods, so I think we try to play to their strengths. There's a groovy rock-and-roll thing to it. It's really groovereliant. And the lyrics tend to be more vague and metaphorical. I probably have more reservations with the lyrics with Fullbloods because I'm representing a full band. With this new solo album, the lyrics are maybe goofier. I was listening to a lot of Randy Newman and Warren Zevon at the time, guys who have really thick sarcasm and heavy satire in their lyrics."
That much is apparent. The lyrics on Small Victories are clever and playful and a little unhinged — some of the best I've heard locally this year. The album opens on "Dishes" with a drum crash and Brown shouting through a distorted microphone: wooo! then ha! Then yeah! Then he rambles about how he's the director and actor and cinematographer and producer and writer and makeup artist. Then he says something about screaming at dirty dishes. It's wide-eyed and demented, like a mad scientist cooking up crazy schemes in isolation.
"The album was made in about four weeks, and it's a lot of me just coming straight home from work" — Brown is employed as a Web developer four days a week — "and fleshing out ideas by myself down here in the basement," he says. "A lot of the stuff, definitely 'Dishes,' I just improvised and rambled off. Then I'd listen to it later and be like, 'Yeah, that's pretty stupid, but I'm going to keep it on there anyway.' "
"Superomance" is less a song than a line of questioning set to a cyclical riff:
What happens to your soul when you die?
How long can you safely store pulled pork in your refrigerator before it goes bad?
How often do you use mathematics?
How would you change the way our government operates?
What do you think about the starving children of India?
What do you think I think about the starving children of India.
And so on. Brown lists Richard Swift as a producer he admires, and there are echoes of Swift's weirdo pop layers throughout, such as on "Lion's Den," with its funky keyboard riff and sunny orchestral glitches. Interestingly, the standout cut, "Small Victories," is the most straightforward, a concise bit of melodic verse-chorus-verse alt-pop à la Matthew Sweet. Small victories tell the truth/If you can't land a passenger plane, pack a parachute / Small victories turn me on/If you can't be a steward of peace, better drop the bomb, Brown sings.
"I was kind of in a rut, to the point where I was celebrating little things way too much," Brown says of the title track. "Like, 'Oh, I spent less than $8 on lunch today.' Or, 'Oh, I was able to get that girl to smile at me.' And I started thinking about the idea of small victories in a larger sense, like with relationships and life and whatever, things like that. And then I guess the album kind of spilled out from there."