How can you tell the difference between a good music critic and a bad music critic with a single question? Well, your mileage may vary on this, but for my money, you need only ask them to tell you their guilty pleasures. If they offer no hesitation whatsoever before launching into their list, then you should consider their opinions to be suspect. On the other hand, if they hem and haw for a moment before offering up a response that’s half an answer and half a clarification that “if you like something, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about it,” then it’s probably worth adding their RSS feed.
If you’re wondering, I don’t have the ego to suggest that I’m a must-add, mostly because I’m prone to answer the question by saying, “I know I shouldn’t feel guilty about liking them, but…” And as you’ve probably guessed, I have on more than one occasion ended that particular sentence by citing The Click Five.
In 2005, the Click Five released their bouncy debut album, Greetings from Imrie House, and picked up two distinct audiences the moment they left the gate: the power pop fans, most of whom discovered the album because Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) had a hand in writing two songs on the record, and the teenaged girls, who just thought the band was cute. It’s sad but true that the former audience is pretty well negligible when it comes to sales figures, but the latter helped Imrie House sprint to #15 on the Billboard album chart, thanks to the powerhouse first single, “Just the Girl.” If you scour the song titles and the credits, you’ll see that one of the two Schlesinger songs is “I’ll Take My Chances,” which was originally recorded by Swirl 360, who’ll score their own “Hooks ‘N’ You” column one of these days. You’ll also discover that Paul Stanley…yes, the one from KISS…co-wrote “Angel To You (Devil To Me),” and that Elliot Easton – late of The Cars – contributes guitar to that song and well as “I’ll Take My Chances.” In other words, it’s not hard to argue that there’s more street cred here than on your average bubblegum pop-rock album.
So how did they decide to follow it up? Why, by replacing their lead singer, of course!
Talk about killing your momentum stone dead.
Naturally, the remaining members of the band tried to keep things polite and diplomatic when discussing Eric Dill’s departure, nipping the inevitable question about the change in the bud by quickly moving off the topic and on to praising Dill’s replacement, Kyle Patrick.
I interviewed the band’s drummer, Joey Zehr, not terribly long after Dill’s departure, and his comment on the matter was, “It wasn’ t a secret amongst us that we weren’t exactly happy in the current set-up, and there were musical differences and different opinions, so when we finally made the decision, it really was kind of a mutual thing, and it wasn’t a really harsh thing on either side. And I know (Eric’s) happy doing what he’s doing now, and we’re certainly happy with what we’re doing now. We’ve got Kyle as our new singer, who’s absolutely amazing and has brought in this new level of inspiration for us to move into the second record with. He’s just an extremely talented musician with a really unique and powerful voice.”
The reality of the matter, though, is that Dill’s voice, while slightly reedy at times, had a unique sound that helped the Click Five stand out from their peers; as a result, when you first listen to the band’s sophomore effort, Modern Minds and Pastimes, Patrick comes off as comparatively faceless, and given that you can’t turn around without finding the latest bunch of cute boys with a catchy pop-rock single, the last thing any band needs is an anonymous-sounding frontman. When I noted how totally dissimilar the two guys sounded, Zehr explained, “We didn’t want to try and pull anything over on anybody. We didn’t want to, like, bring in a new Eric.” Well, they definitely succeeded on that front.
Still, you can’t say the hooks aren’t there, and the more you spin Modern Minds and Pastimes, the more it stands on its own merits. It just takes a little while…well, with the exception of “Jenny,” which was easily one of my favorite songs of 2007 and was an understandable pick for the album’s first single. And while there’s no one here who can match the mainstream power pop cool of Adam Schlesinger, the guys do have a secret weapon sitting amongst their collaborators: Jez Ashurst of the band Farrah.
Ashurst’s contributions to the album are, it must be said, the best of the bunch, including not only the aforementioned “Jenny” but also the pop nuggets “Happy Birthday” and “I’m Getting Over You.” There are certainly other fun numbers, however, and though it’s easy to argue that the Click Five sound like they’re trying a bit too hard with the retro sound of tracks like “Addicted To Me” and “Headlight Disco,” they’re still catchy as all hell.
Alas, here’s the bad news: Modern Minds and Pastimes was the kind of flop that can bury a band. While the Click Five’s debut made it all the way up to #15, thanks to a lot of touring, promotion, and Radio Disney requests, they achieved sophomore slump status in a big way, with Modern Minds crawling only to #136 before slinking back to the depths.
But is there any good news for the band? Perhaps. Word has it that they’ve been doing surprisingly well in Malaysia. They were given the title “Band of the Year” by 987FM, in Singapore, in the Top 100 Countdown of 2007 and 2008, and they won the Knockout Award at MTV Asia Awards 2008; if we can trust Wikipedia (and, to be fair, we often can’t), the band even performed at the first international rock concert held at the ancient temple of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Word has it that the group has been recording a new album, scheduled to emerge later this year…but will it get a Stateside release? Time will tell.
I gotta tell ya, though, that I find myself rooting for these guys more and more with each passing day…or, to be more specific, with each further YouTube clip I see from them. I used to think they were a full-fledged studio concoction, but I haven’t felt that in quite a while now, and here are two reasons why:
1. They like Nick Lowe, which isn’t exactly something that brings the teenyboppers in by droves.
(For the record, they also like Elvis Costello, too, but I couldn’t find a version of their take on “Pump It Up” which would’ve impressed you a whole lot.)
2. They can translate their songs to an acoustic setting and keep the awesome harmonies intact.