Emil, Plug in Music
The Hazzards (formerly the Ukes of Hazzard, until the trademark lawyers caught up with them) pulled off quite a coup last year when - armed with little more than a discount-store CASIO keyboard, two ukuleles, and a hilarious, made-on-an-iMac video for their single “Gay Boyfriend” – they crashed the UK pop charts at #67. A near-perfect novelty song, “Gay Boyfriend” has the Hazzards (Anne Harris and Sydney Maresca) singing the praises of men who know how to dance, appreciate romantic comedies, and do everything else an ideal boyfriend should, except sleep with women. The video, meanwhile, shows our heroines parading the decks of a computer-generated cruise ship and frolicking amongst digital flowers with a pair of conspicuously well-groomed gents. “Gay Boyfriend” rightfully earned the Hazzards a warm reception in alternative nightclubs from San Francisco to London, plus 15 minutes of television fame on the Comedy Central network.
Since then, the Hazzards have gone back to their pile of demo tapes, in hopes of assembling an album-length follow up worthy of their surprise cult hit. The results come in the form of So Pretty, a 6-song EP. When I first read through the liner notes for the album, I was a bit unnerved by Sidney and Anne’s decision to enlist a full backing band – after all, half the charm of “Gay Boyfriend” and their other, early MP3s were the ridiculous, rickety ukelele-and-CASIO arrangements. However, once I noticed the rather oddball list of instruments (glockenspiel, harp, saxophone), my fears that the Hazzards had gone rock subsided.
“So Pretty” opens with “Girl Beer”, a breezy paen to wine coolers, spritzers, and other un-macho alcoholic beverages (“Girl beer… / it tastes like candy and it works like wine… / when I drink it, I dirty talk and try to touch your underwear”). It’s followed by “Just a Temp”, which maintains the same goofy, faux-calypso shuffle as the lyrics compare office politics to schoolyard popularity contests (“I eat lunch at my desk / I have to man the phone / Work is just like high school / and temps sit all alone”).
The requisite online-dating rant “Sexy Spirit 4U” (is it just me or have songs about online dating become a genre unto themselves?) bobs along on a folk-rock beat with a brief Billy Joel, NYC-circa-1974 saxophone solo. “Shut Up & Make Out” slams overeducated boys who talk too much (“you’ve got better things to show me than your poetry”) to a clicky-clack electro beat and slinky ska horns. “Gay Boyfriend” is just as funny as it was the first time, though thankfully it doesn’t completely overshadow the other songs. “The Business” is the one track where the Hazzards and their gay boyfriends shift into full-on alterna-rock-radio mode, complete with distorted guitars and filtered, raspy vocals… and, good golly, it’s not half bad!
Of course, not everyone is likely to be as charmed by Sydney and Anne’s brainy, awkward pop as I am. Even though there’s no question that the Hazzards are a legitimate indie-pop band, and not just a stand-up routine, the comedy quotient is high and it helps if you share their sense of humor (which is to say it helps to be a college graduate with a degree in liberal arts, an under-stimulating office job, and at least one gay friend, if you aren’t gay yourself). But for those who qualify, “So Pretty” is a delightfully silly, sugary piece of brain candy.