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2021 In Review: Spud Cannon showed us how Good Kids Make Bad Apples





2021 In Review: Spud Cannon showed us how Good Kids Make Bad Apples

At first glance Spud Cannon may come across as too wholesome to some of the miscreants among our regular readership. The rosy cheeks. The peppy demeanor. The preppy-ish fashion sense. All those things typically indicating “crazed serial killer” in our culture. Not to mention the band’s adherence to an all-white dress code like that creepy cult from The Leftovers.

But once you drop the needle on Good Kids Make Bad Apples (if you haven't done so already, that is, it was released in summer 2020) any such hesitancy will disappear the moment Spud Cannon squirt out the first of the record's many glucose-infused musical hooks (apples and potatoes are full of natural sugars) only about 19 seconds into opening track “Juno” (don’t worry, it’s not about teen pregnancy) a distilled hit of surf-rock-power-pop-girl-group-dance-rock that makes social anxiety sound downright intoxicating especially when the band shifts into overdrive and the notes start bouncing off each another like a bunch of brakeless bumper cars just be forewarned it's gonna make you wanna boogie down and bump bump bump your ass off but really why make yourself feel bad for having good clean fun this is perhaps something you should address with your therapist.

The song is quite well constructed too. Like how that first aforementioned hit of musical bliss is super short and leaves you wanting more—a technique known to every halfway competent drugdealer, and no wonder the vocals here describe "feeling like I'm never gonna get enough" in excitable double time—and then after the next verse you get a bigger hit of the hook plus it's followed by an "afterglow section" of aphsia-induced ‘ooh-ooh-ooh’s!’ and then the whole thing cycles around again but with some subtle guitar and keyboard counter-melodies thrown in for good measure building up and building up (this time around the "afterglow section" is slightly extended) before cresting with one last ecstatic climax all in under three minutes time. It's basically a master class in manipulating tension-and-release and hey maybe the fun on offer here isn't so "good and clean" after all...

Lyrically, “Juno” is a song about missing your ride home from a party but taking it all in stride, taking notes on every intriguing stranger and every missed connection along the way (e.g., the band’s too loud, your forgot your opening line, they’re not the right type, oops spilled your wine, etc.) but never giving up hope “I could meet someone” or more existentially “I could be someone” which establishes a recurring theme on an album full of stories by (and about) all those who “can’t get no satisfaction” (most of us, no?) but still sounding pretty damn buoyant about it because all the yearning and the hope and even the pain itself can be intoxicating--a happy-sad, upbeat-downbeat dynamic nicely captured in the song “You Got It All (NOT)" and hey it's right there in the title.

It’s also pretty cool how the songs on Good Kids Make Bad Apples appear to be in dialogue with one another. Like how on “Juno” the party-going protagonist declares “I won’t be wasting my time / on garbage highs / I can go all night” but the next song “Supersonic” starts with the lines “uh-oh you’re lost on a cheap high / wide eyes on the hunt for your next ride.” Talk about good kids calling out bad apples (!) even when looking in the mirror.

Or how the wordless “ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-boop-be-doop” refrain from “You Got It All (NOT!)” gets echoed later in the song “Na Na Na” which itself echoes the title and the “let the loser go” theme of the late ‘60s hit “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” crossed with the chiding “na na na na’s” of the J. Giles Band. Some may be tempted to call this “intertextuality” and maybe Spud Cannon too, because these kids-cum-young-adults met at Vassar College and who knows how many semiotics lectures they attended between the five of 'em.

Speaking of Vassar College, GDMBA was recorded on “Squash Court #1” (self-produced no less) which may sound like some hipster Brooklyn studio but no it’s an actual squash court on their college campus that the band possibly maybe surreptitiously occupied late at night to record the album and achieve its big vivid Wall of Sound sound which makes me think squash courts should be utilized for this purpose more often even if it's not the most rock 'n 'roll of sports. (ahhhhhh now the outfits make sense!) Anyway it worked out well apparently because squash courts have the perfect acoustics for the Spuds' big shiny hooks and party-rock ambiance and detailed arrangements (brass, glockenspiel, is that tubular bells?) and in the clip below you'll see the squash coach isn’t even mad at them for scuffing up the court with their glockenspiel.

In conclusion, despite being released last summer, Good Kids Make Bad Apples is perhaps even better suited to this The January Of Our Discontent being an album that radiates warmth and vitality despite the underlying dissatisfaction. Plus a starchy musical diet is good for getting through the winter months. (Jason Lee)

Published: January 17, 2022 |

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