Bright Ideas for Ignorable Charm
On Bright Ideasâ€šÃ„Ã´ title track, Portastaticâ€šÃ„Ã´s Mac McCaughan sings that he â€šÃ„Ãºput [his] bright ideas right back in [his] ass.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s a shame and probably uncomfortable. While enjoyable, Bright Ideas falls short of being inspiring and doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t quite live up to its authorâ€šÃ„Ã´s potential. The album would have benefited from a few more bright ideas sprinkled throughout. As is, it ambles along, fueled by a few merely mediocre ones.Bright Ideas is a cozy, featured-in-the-background, kind of album. Let it play to fill up space, but pay attention to it, and disappointment settles in. The ten tracks follow an inoffensive post-grunge template that can be, at times, charming, but dull and irksome as well. Following a bell curve, the albumâ€šÃ„Ã´s lowest points are its opener and closer, â€šÃ„ÃºBright Ideasâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºFull of Stars.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Violins accent the tepid tempo on the latter, but to no worthwhile effect. The slow and awkward flow of these tracks gives the impression of a lazy band bored with its own work.
The most earnest and appealing songs are drawn from the center. Tracks such as â€šÃ„ÃºWhite Wave,â€šÃ„Ã¹ â€šÃ„ÃºI Wanna Know Girls,â€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºLittle Fernâ€šÃ„Ã¹ are upbeat and poppy fun, quick with catchy guitar hooks and less-embarrassing lyrics exploring inconsistent emotions and uneasy relationships. The fun slows with the esoteric â€šÃ„ÃºTruckstop Cassettes,â€šÃ„Ã¹ the only intriguing slow song, and soon after the album loses momentum not to be regained.
Bright Ideas is simply not as good as it could be. As Portastatic is McCaughanâ€šÃ„Ã´s side-project away from Superchunk, perhaps he is saving his own bright ideas for the other bandâ€šÃ„Ã´s next album. If so, hereâ€šÃ„Ã´s looking forward to that release.