Singer/songwriter/recorder/mixer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Scott Wiener (Hijack Jupiter, Martha Dumptruck Massacre) goes solo on this musical confection recorded under an indie pseudonym (a common practice for indie solo artists) that refers to one of the great softcore late-night films of the genre: The Bikini Carwash Company.
That incarnation's debut album,
Bicycle, is 14 songs of pop-rock craftsmanship by a man who obviously knows what he's doing.
After a soothingly deceptive "Introlude," which acts as an aperitif, the album flies into high gear with "Learning to Trust the BBC," which I couldn't explain, but to which I was humming along nonetheless. Wiener's varied but unassuming voice counts for a lot of his album's charm; he sounds like your best friend playing in his garage, although that would be difficult, since Wiener plays all but a select few of the instruments (cello, trumpets).
"Up to the Kitchen" impresses with its basic rhythm, its chorus, and with an energetic drum line near the end. As a drummer, it is heartening to see a musician treat percussion as more than just a bed for their melodies. "Shift Key" is a one-minute treat that begs for a longer interpretation, just because of its energy, and "The Devil" is full of wonderful non sequiturs like "the devil splits a hair on my head" and "the king abbreviates longer words." The addition of Catherine Odell's cello and trumpets from Jack Taylor and Carl Schoenberger really enhance the atmosphere that ends abruptly to introduce "Are You My Girlfriend," a delightful longing tune with a Beach Boys vibe, and the one I would choose for an introductory single.
"Dinosaurs!" is a TV theme song waiting to happen (complete with a well-placed
Ghostbusters sound effect). Did you know that they are "better than a weekday"? I'll take their word for it. In any case, it is a wonderful interlude that leads into the centerpiece of
Bicycle, "Your Guitar." This is a multi-layered piece that reveals its secrets bit by bit, continuing to surprise and impress throughout its running time. The vocal effect only enhances the lonely feeling of the dual guitars. And combining electronic percussion with drums (reminiscent of
The Postal Service) is something that should be done more often.
Some of this
Bicycle moves at a mellower pace. "For Me" offers up the interesting revelation that Ted Nugent's signature "Cat Scratch Fever" is the band's favorite song, but that "it won't be that for long," a nod to the fickleness of modern music fans; and "In Search of Hollywood" has a vibe and rhythm similar to REM's "Man on the Moon."
Questions arise on "Everybody's Family" when the proposal is made that "Aunt Kathy's in everybody's family". But the great thing about pop is that it doesn't have to make sense, it only has to be catchy, which The Bikini Carwash Company has definitely mastered. I could see this one being another sitcom theme. Surprisingly, the continual repetition of the title theme does not become grating due to the musical diversity. In fact, the diversity of songs, instruments, and genres on
Bicycle renew my faith in the quality of modern songwriting. As long as there are pop craftsmen like Scott Wiener out there, however obscurely they may be toiling, there will always be great music available -- even if someone else equally obscure like me has to tell you about it.
THE BIKINI CARWASH COMPANY: Bicycle
Home-made recordings of finely-tuned songs in hand- silkscreened packaging. The Bikini Carwash Company is rock music and ear candy molded into a ball of fun.
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