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Inspired By Y2K

Dan Emery Mystery Band and Jim’s Big Ego

By Fred Choi

Although artists will always have the eternal themes of love, war, and angst to write about, many of them also take advantage of more modern subjects such as the Internet, global warming, and the invention of the electric razor as the inspiration for new songs. The Dan Emery Mystery Band and Jim’s Big Ego are two bands who have tackled the world’s favorite millennium dilemma, Y2K: the former on a two-track promotional single entitled Y2K and the latter on a five-track EP called Y2K Hooray. Each single showcases its Y2K track and includes a preview for each band’s forthcoming album.

Although Dan Emery and Jim Infantino, the masterminds behind the Dan Emery Mystery Band and Jim’s Big Ego, have similar senses of humor, they take entirely different spins on Y2K in their title tracks. The Mystery Band’s “Y2K” (available for download at <http://aperock.home.mindspring. com/apemusic.htm>) is a multi-thematic song that aptly features the band’s strongest characteristics as observed in their release Love and Advertising (reviewed in The Tech, V119, N12). For one thing, the band once again finds hilariously creative analogies that border on metaphysical conceit. They also slyly mix frivolity with heartfelt honesty so skillfully that the song’s path -- from thoughts on Y2K to a desire for companionship to thoughtful musings on mortality and the end of an era -- never seems contrived or illogical. Most importantly, however, the song also has catchy music that, while not the most potent among their tunes, fully supports and aids the lyrics.

In contrast, Jim’s Big Ego’s Y2K Hooray (available for download at <http://www.>), which is included in both studio and demo versions on the EP, concentrates solely on commenting on the Y2K phenomenon and somewhat morbidly reveling in the imagined havoc that was going to ensue. The song features an interesting drum loop (by Lionel Cassin) and backup vocals reminiscent of the chorus of bugs in Fox’s animated version of Anastasia. However, like their performance of the song at the VooDoo party, “Y2K Hooray” is not as immediately appealing as most of their other tunes.

Jim’s Big Ego’s single also includes a live performance entitled “Smells Like Big Chinos.” Those who were present at the VooDoo party will recognize the band’s knack for imitating other groups and juxtaposing unlikely styles to great effect in this seven minute track. Here, the lyrics to the classic campfire song “Kumbaya” are interwoven with the lyrics and the tune of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and then combined with a silly spiel about “My Pair of Big Chinos” before the song finally segues into a rollicking accelerated version of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” complete with chimpanzee yells near the end. As recorded on the disc, the live performance loses a lot of the spontaneous humor that was so evident at their recent student center performance, so one is likely to appreciate the track only the first few times.

By far the two best tracks of the CD are “Ahead of the Curve” (a demo version of the song that appears on JBE album Don’t Get Smart) and “Stay in Love,” the preliminary mix of a track which will appear on their forthcoming album. “Ahead of the Curve” is an admirable song in every way. Lyrically, it moves forward with great eloquence, while perfectly conveying the character of the narrator in all his amusing arrogance. Moreover, the song has fantastic, toe-tapping music, to a very impressive degree of complexity. The verse, which is in 4/4, the chorus, in 4/4 and 3/4, and then the lead-in back to the verse, in three bars of 2/4, all flow completely naturally and provide the song with a wonderfully fresh sound. This track and “Stay in Love” achieve their purpose in strongly recommending the band’s other releases.

Likewise, “Downloading Smut,” the second track on The Mystery Band’s single, hints at what’s to come on their forthcoming album, Natural Selection. As in their live version, the track includes funny lyrics, a great hook, a funky keyboard solo (by band member Steve Espinola), and a seemingly uncomplicated subject, but with a punch line about censorship that gives added drive to an otherwise frivolous song. In addition, the track features a denser, generally stronger sound than most of what appears on Love and Advertising, perhaps reflecting the band’s increasing comfort in playing together.