Thursday, November 6, 2008

Album + Live: Team Genius

I first listened to Team Genius only because their myspace picture was cute (see below). But when I heard they had an album out and a show at Glasslands, I decided to check out both and do a two-part review. Here it is:

Album: Team Genius
Self-released, 2008
Rating: ******* (7/10)

Team Genius plays some of the most shameless pop you'll hear these days, so if you get embarrassed for over-the-top cheesy pop acts, prepare to cringe. They do just about everything a band shouldn't - they use saxophone, trumpet and mallet percussion, crank out some serious falsetto, clap their hands, snap their fingers and, most grievous of all, have eight (eight!!!) members. By all counts, I should despise them.

Instead, I can't turn them off.

The first bars of the album sound like the Bee Gees singing a song by Postal Service, but the track slowly blossoms into a beautifully comforting anthem. And it just gets stranger from there on - the album's ten songs are a hodge-podge collage of styles, with hints of everything from cajun to opera, cowboy-folk to disco, celtic to showtunes, gospel to arena rock.

Some songs, like the aggressive dance number "The Wise Ones All Give Up", are accessible, but others can be off-putting on the first listen. But give them a chance to grow on you - there's not a single bad song in the bunch. The final track, sung by what could well be the whole band, sounds like the triumphant song of good friends on the way home from the neighborhood bar. It's the perfect closer to this album of cheering comfort-pop.

Photo by Meg Watcher(

When: 11/5
Where: Glasslands

Live, Team Genius wasn't as satisfying as the record. The band wasn't as tight as they should be, occasionally falling out of sync and struggling to meld their various parts. The problem was only aggravated by poor mixing - the lead vocals were too loud, while most instruments and additional vocals were hard to hear distinctly.

That said, the band is fun to watch. They act like what they probably are - a group of friends doing what they love and having more fun than should be legal. Their frequent instrument changes made the set dynamic and interesting throughout. Except for an entirely uncreative Velvet Underground cover, the songs were all enjoyable, even exciting, to hear performed.

Perhaps with more rehearsal, the band can achieve on stage what it accomplished on its album - but even if not, they are worth checking out. Live or on your iPod, Team Genius will make you feel better about life. So if you need some cheering up, check out the record or catch them live this Saturday at Union Hall!

**As a final note, someone should take up a collection to buy Team Genius an orchestral glockenspiel. Their child's set of bells isn't cute enough to justify the poor sound, and such catchy glock parts should never suffer such a clanky fate!

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