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ALBUM REVIEW

The Dan Emery Mystery Band

Natural Selection

By Fred Choi
ASSOCIATE ARTS EDITOR

L ike Dan Emery Mystery Band’s first release Love and Advertising, their second release Natural Selection (available at CDNow.com, Amazon.com, and the band’s website <http://aperock.home.mindspring.com>) is an album full of instantly quotable lyrics addressing highly relevant subjects -- from Internet porn (“Aperock.com”) to mass consumerism (“T. Rex,” one of their catchiest tracks ever). The Band even sings about hating their job (“Salt Mine”).

However, most of the songs focus on personal issues, especially loneliness. It is here that Dan Emery and the Mystery Band show how honest they can be. On the beautiful, reflective “I’m Not Being Very Good To My Girl,” he admits that he doesn’t know why the relationship isn’t working (“Why does she love me so much?”). On “Mustard” he admits to his insecurity via a hilarious metaphor (“Squeeze me, squeeze me, squeeze me, ’cause I’m a little jar of mustard ... Are you allergic to mustard? Are you allergic to me?”), and on the rockin’ track “Middle of the World” the narrator contemplates his tiny-speck-in-the-cosmos status, but still clings to his own worth (“But somehow/I’m someone/I’m somewhere/I’m in the middle of the world.”)

Many of the songs deal with several issues at once and tell memorable, emotional stories. Along with “Her Favorite Bra,” the second of the three now-classic songs which first appeared on Love and Advertising and are included on this release, is “Streets of the East Village.” This song is an adaptation of the traditional ballad “Streets of Laredo,” and presents the hilarious romance between two completely opposite people: “I had an earring/She had a brand/She’s an anarchist/and I was her man ... I showed her how to juggle/and she showed me how to shoplift ... Her friends made me nervous/She thought mine were prudes/She’s an anarchist/and I was her dude.” If only Hollywood comedies were this funny. The ending, in which the anarchist leaves the guy for her ex-boyfriend Sam, is a beautiful, classic Mystery Band-esque moment in which the narrator reflects quietly and sadly to himself “What started as nothing/is nothing again/ She’s an anarchist/and I was her man.”

The song “No One” (featuring Steve Espinola’s skillful short-wave radio playing) explores feelings of isolation even amongst the bustle of a big city, much like on their previous song “The Only One Who Loves You” (a mini-masterpiece from their first album and also included in a slightly remixed version here). In the song the narrator reveals that he feels his girlfriend is stifling him and that he feels paranoia, and then he freely admits “I feel lonely.” He immediately follows this up with the apology, “I don’t mean to bring anybody down, but that’s just the way I feel. I feel lonely.” All of these Peanuts-esque mini-confessionals are moving because they’re so real it’s impossible to be cynical about them.

Although many of the songs, while entertaining and true, offer no real solutions, others offer a happy ending. “Over in Scotland” (featuring fantastic animal sound effects by Dan Emery) is one example. The last track, “Good and Evil,” is perhaps the most hopeful. Even though “giving a damn was going out of style” the narrator still believes “there’s good and there’s evil and I choose good” and that “You don’t need God in order to be good.”

Finally, he affirms his message: “I’m going to live like life matters/I’m going to love like love matters.” Although such a credo could potentially sound preachy, we the audience believe it because it comes from the Mystery Band, a band who through the course of one record have eloquently and entertainingly guided us through joy, disillusionment, heartbreak, apathy, outrage, helplessness, and love. In this world there’s good music and there’s evil music, but if you’re looking for good music a great choice is The Dan Emery Mystery Band.