German Art Students
Name Droppers (2005, Autobahn Music)
If this Wisconsin band’s debut, Kissing By The Superconductor was a fresh faced, power pop flick in the face, then Name Droppers is a more evolved, refined pop wedgie. The crunchy guitars have almost disappeared, and it may seem like a bit of that extra kick is gone, but it’s wonderful to hear melodies no longer hiding behind amp fuzz, not to mention the clearer harmonies as heard on “Bjorn Borg” and “Triumph of the Human Spirit”. The voice of Annalies Howell and the other guys that share vocal duties go together like chocolate and milk, and it’s those vocals that steal the show, perfectly layered and always spear-heading sparkling hooks and a solid but understated rhythm section.
The sound of the band has turned a corner, but their most beloved quality remains intact – fun-filled, narrative-driven tunes, always a pleasure to sing along with and/or joke about. What’s missing these days, and what the Students provide once again, is good-natured humor and sharp wit. It’s more dopey, less mopey (please, please, please, let this be the new manifesto for current rock music)! Whether they’re poking fun at non-celebrities with the bubbly “Bjorn Borg”, themselves (and celebrities) with “Dick Clark (The Ballad of the German Art Students)”, or people who un/intentionally show off too much skin as on “No Peekee”, it’s a joy to giggle and smirk while bopping, bouncing, and hand-clapping along. Throw in some nerdy romance (“MENSA Girl”), friendly advice (“You have idle time / You need a hobby like Elvis and karate”), and very fine and fitting cover of Joe Jackson’s “Happy Loving Couples” and you’ve got a shiny new gem to add to your best-of-2005 list. It’s seemed like years since we’ve heard from the German Art Students, but my worries have now subsided since I discovered they were simply working on their Master’s Degree…in excellent pop rock.
-Mark Hughson 6/8/05