Debutaunts’ “Why Can’t We Have Fun”
“If you’re looking for an album to maybe fill the silence in a department store (I see it suiting the Gap especially; not really sure why), then Why Can’t We Have Fun is the perfect gap-filler.” -GOGuest Writer
out of 10
Why Can't We Have Fun
January 1, 2010
The newly-released Why Can’t We Have Fun is an alt.-rock mash-up of familiar sounds and flat lyrics, so reminiscent of so many other bands that the best adjective I can offer it is simply “nonabrasive.” A sort of jigsaw amalgam of Hot Hot Heat, Phantom Planet, a smattering of Islands, and a whole lot of The Smiths, The Debutaunts (sic) manage to maneuver an entire album without ever really defining themselves as artists. With each song, one spends all her time wondering, “Where have I heard this before? Who does this remind me of?” So much that, by the time she finally figures it out, the song is over. It’s not that I want to forget this band. It’s just that I can’t help but do so.
OK, that might be a little harsh. The Debutaunts do, after all, exhibit a fine display of musical diversity throughout this release, none of which could really be labeled “bad”— at least not in any technical sense. They have musical range. For instance, the album shifts from the perfectly metrical Waltz-standard of “Who Could’ve Lost You,” accompanied by orchestral strings, to classic 50s Rock-n-Roll in “Principles.” They move from sentimental rock ballads in “Made to Fit” to lightweight teen-romance soundtracks in “She Missed the Party” to prominent synthesizing in “As Long As You Want Me.” Variety, they have. The problem is—these variations all come across as stale imitations of things we already know.
That also might be too harsh. I’m not trying to say that this album should be totally avoided (the chosen modifier was “nonabrasive,” after all). I’m merely saying that, for me at least, it’s not going to be remembered. It gives me this feeling: that it’s the product of a very talented band who is too busy trying to be a very talented band to actually risk something original. Even the vocals seem affected. Jazek’s artificially-forced triphthongs and protracted vowels strike the listener as someone urging, “Go on; find meaning here. This is deep and soulful and moving. ” (We won’t dwell on the fact that what he’s singing about is a girl missing a party.) It’s like trying to cram something like “heart” into a place where the real thing should exist on its own.
(It also doesn’t help that Jazek frequently alters his vocal pattern to achieve this. For example, in “As Long As You Want Me,” he tries so hard to coerce “me” into rhyming with “play”—a shoddy pop/punk vocal hybridization that is almost always annoying, and practically never genuine.)
For the most part, the sound on this album is so un-innovative as to render it wholly un-critiqueable in the first place. What were they trying to do? What feelings were they trying to evoke? Whoare the Debutaunts anyway?
If you’re looking for an album to maybe fill the silence in a department store (I see it suiting the Gap especially; not really sure why), then Why Can’t We Have Fun is the perfect gap-filler. Nonabrasive and non-provoking, its ratcheted-out sound is safe and expected. Like someone hung a fuzzy mirror across from Starry Night and called the new image “art.” It may seem like something we’ve liked before, but really, it’s nothing at all in itself.