If they ever make an Empire Records 2, they’ll know just the loyal lawn-mower guitar-crankers to enlist to soundtrack it. New York’s Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms produce the kind of defiantly conventional and non-creative pop-punk that fits like a glove into these prior hatched stories of “jock,” “nerd,” “hot chick,” “Daria-type” etc. where of course at the end the whole gang unites for the purpose of “rocking.” Wow, we’ve never heard that story before!
Well, on the off chance that you’ve, you know, HEARD RADIOHEAD IN YOUR LIFE, you might be a little sick of this shtick, or just piteous before that tired formula of rocking out like a Matthew Sweet on coke, which is basically what we have here. To his credit, Ryan Allen, formerly of band The Thunderbirds, does sound charmingly like Dave Coutts of Talk Show (Stone Temple Pilots minus Scott Weiland in yes our beloved 1990s) and like he does know his way around a brief string-bending guitar solo, provided all the notes reside in the same octave as each other. The vocals on this album can be sort of good until Allen insists on throwing some cheesy inflection in there showing his insistence on being a pop showman. At one point he tells us “We got so high”, where it just undeniably aped Kurt Cobain’s same declaration on “On a Plain,” and in general, this music is a lot like Dinosaur Jr. Like really, really, really, really, really a lot like Dinosaur Jr. It’s like if Guitar Hero climbed out of your TV and started a band, basically. By track three I was, quite obviously, craving some creative instrumentation, when unfortunately I got it in the form of these just pathetic-sounding programmed strings which grate onto the canvas like an imp at a house party, more or less.
Look, if Lower Dens have taught us anything, other than how to smoke weed and listen to The Velvet Underground & Nico 1,000 times, it’s that you can MAKE full and orchestral music with programmed drums. Far more important, I think, than being some type of garage rock noble savage, which seems to be chic these days in the Big Apple, the Extra Arms in tandem with local cohorts like Mike Pace and the Child Actors, is actually giving your music TEXTURE and DRAW – rendering things so that at some point in the middle of the song, you think, this is music I want to listen to, this is music I want as a companion. Not everything has to be so NARRATIVE. I don’t need to know about your personal life. You don’t always have to be a GOOD PERSON. Nobody’s perfect. But it can’t be mechanical. When I listen to Jana Hunter and the gang on an album like Nootropics, every track is different from the others, each sidling up to the overall project with its own unique concoction of mood and feeling. Most importantly, it could never be summed up by Guitar Hero, not in a million years.