[Cal Chuchesta jammin’] [Anthony is not pleased] Hey everyone, SPAMtony SCAMtano here, the Internet’s busiest music nerd. And it’s time for review of the new Lemon Demon record, “Spirit Phone”. Lemon Demon is the occasionally comedic, rock-and-pop project of producer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, mr.
Neil Cicerega. The man is a jack of all trades, when it comes to Internet content creation. You might remember-r-r the legendary “BRODYQUEST” meme on his YouTube channel, he also has a series of great skits.
The epic “Computer Fighters” video that he just dropped; also, you can check out the Potter Puppet Pals series, that he’s done. A couple years ago, he came up with two amazing mash-up records, which I still listen to, casually, to this day.
[cough] This is what addiction feels like. And he’s also dropped numerous Lemon Demon albums up until this point as well. And I checked out as many as I could, when I first found out about Neil. And I guess, my first impressions were, that there were good intentions behind these projects, but a lot of the production was sort of flimsy, very clearly, sort of a DIY thing.
And, not even like, in a super-cool, hip, trendy, lo-fi way. More in a way, where the mixing feels kinda one-dimentional: the keyboards, the guitars, the percussion, the vocals feel really raw, maybe slightly untouched.
Placing instruments in a mix, can be a lot like arranging furniture in a room. And rather than placing everything tastefully, so that the room functions and it flows, and you could sort of move throughout i-i-it, it felt like everything was just kind of jumbled on top of each other.
And this is somewhat of an issue on this latest LP for me as well, though not quite as much. It seems like Neil, on this one, has honed his production chops quite a bit, though they’re not perfect – – I will say that I think, in terms of his songwriting, and what he puts into this record instrumentally (which is a lot, this is a pretty busy record), I feel like most of his ideas, or great deal of his ideas, translate.
All the songs are really sharply written. I mean, some of the best hooks I’ve heard this year. If you like the quirk of bands like Devo, and the erratic vocals of a singer like Mark Mothersbaugh, or, you know, some of the weirdo dudes from the new wave era, like Gary Numan, or maybe you enjoy little They Might Be Giants, or, let’s say, the Japanese synth-punk band Polysics, but sort of pulling the whole 8-bit sound out of the equation.
Then I think you’re gonna find something alike in this record. Neil isn’t always making music to sound like these bands, but I do think there’s a similar, playful attitu-u-u-ude. Musically, Neil pulls a lot from the 80s on this thing: new wave, pop-rock, there are lot of throbbing synthesizers-s-s, punchy danceable beats.
Though it doesn’t really sound clichéd, or vintaged, or just kind of trying to desperatly pull for some kind of nostalgia. Neil isn’t trying to appeal to you with a throwback, he is trying to get you to enjoy the songs, for what they are.
And, I guess, occasionally wow you with a very strange song subject, like on the song “Cabinet Man”, which seems to be about a guy, that gets sucked into an arcade machine, and now he is part-man, part-machine, and exists in this weird videogame world.
Now, this thing is 14 tracks long, but if you buy the full length album on Bandcamp, you get like 13 additional bonus tracks; which consist of demos, of some loose… just change, odds and ends that didn’t make it onto the record.
Some of which are actually pretty cool. The record features a really big intro track, a kind of, bit of a subtle, warm goodbye for the outro, that… at first I thought it was kind of a dud, but I guess with extra listens, it has grown on me.
And there doesn’t seem to be a grand concept to this entire project, even though right after the first track, the whole thing kicks off with a PSA, where Neil is saying – due to his strong convictions – he has to say, that “This record is not endorsing the occult”.
And I guess there are some occult, and very morbid – hilariously morbid – moments on this thing, that we’ll get into; but for the most part, this record is just all about… each song on here just standing so well on its own, as uh, potentially, like a good single.
I mean, we’re just talkin’ great verses and choruses here, just very tightly written songs. Hooks so good, I get a rush off of them. Uh, one of my favourite tracks here is, right toward the beginning: “On a touch-tone, touch-tone, telephone!” I love the punchy pianos on this thing, the really sweet “kisses” of string embellishments, that are worked into the hook too.
This thing is as hard-hitting, and as infectious, as it is just really detailed, and intricate, and refined. And uh, lyrically, the song is about… supernatural calls? Calling, talking to people from beyond the grave, while simultaneously saluting old technology.
You know, Neil just tosses out references to things like circuitboards, and Leonard Nimoy, like it’s nothin’. The song “Sweet Bod” is one of my favoutite tracks here, but simultaneously, one of the most unsettling, uhh.
.. Neil seems to have some kind of attraction to, uh, a dead body here, or some specific person’s dead body. And he’s not trying to have sex with the body or anything like that, it’s not a necrophilia thing, it’s not.
.. sexual, as he says in the song. But he wants to, sort of, cover the body in honey and sweet things, and make it “confectional”? It’s a candy cadaver! It’s a candy cadaver. And um, I guess he just wants to mummify this body, in uh, sugar.
[Anthony is confused] Eh? I like the song “When He Died”, it took a little to grow on me, but I’m getting like a serious Unicorns vibe off this song, especially with some of the very frail lead vocals, and the very morbid topic of the track.
The song “Ancient Aliens” (♩ ♫ ti ti, paa, NAAH, naah ♬ ♪) – – has some of the most searing, and just bright, and catchy synth leads of the entire project. Then there’s the song “Soft Fuzzy Man”, which.
.. I mean, if a soft, fuzzy man is anywhere near as fun as the song, I’m interested! Sign me up. On “As Your Father I Expressly Forbid It”, Neil plays this really neurotic character, that reads to me like a.
.. from an old Talking Heads or like a David Burn song, and Neil seems to literally be playing his dad, or a dad, on this track, sort of scolding his son, for: talking to his grandfather about the Internet, his grandfather doesn’t know what the Internet is, he doesn’t care.
And he doesn’t want his kid to be bringing his Gameboy to his table. Uh, he seems to be yelling at his kid, after he misplaces his dad’s medicine, or something; and his dad gets mad at him for it. “As your father, I expressly forbid it!” And, Neil stays on, sort of that family theme, on the song “I Earn My Life”, uh, which is, sort of an intimate and vulnerable moment for him.
Uh, sort of seems to add up to this idea, that was placed by the last track; that I guess, family life, home life, can kind of be a prison, in a way. Or at least, that’s how I read it. And then, Neil dives into the topsy-turvy world of economics, on the song “Reaganomics”, where – I guarantee, this will be the only song you hear this year, where a singer goes: ♬ ♫ “DEREGULATION, baby!” ♪ ♫ Though, I do think the song comes off really loud, super punchy, to the point where, uhh, I think, everything.
.. This is just another mix, where the keys, the beats, everything is just so loud, and so piled on top of each other, that it’s uh… It’s a little oppressive to listen to. But lyrically, I enjoy what Neil is doing with the song, basically umm.
.. talking about his wish, to “free the world of the burden of money”. And I like, that Neil is able to occasionally work in a soft side on this record too. Like on a closer, or uh, toward the start of the song “No Eyed Girl”.
Not only does this track feature plenty of cowbell, but some vocal harmonies, that seem sort of Queen-inspired. Really cool. This record, again, is just a straightforward pop-rock record, with some great hooks, some good writing, some really creative lyrics, and a lot of persona-a-a-ality.
It’s got a New Wave vibe to it, with a fast, punchy punk energy, but it still stays accessible. Occasionally, the production can be a little messy, a little loud, and maybe this record might read to you as slightly obnoxious too.
There is something about this album, that- that is just painfully nerdy. But uh, that does appeal to me, it may not appeal to you. And, I think we’re gonna leave it there. I’m feelin’ a strong 7 to a light 8, on this thing.
Tran- -sition! Have you given this album a listen? Did ya love it, did ya hate it, what would you rate it? You the best, you the best, what should I review next? Hit-that-like, if-you-like, Spirit Phone, want to.
.. bone (?) UGGGghhh… Thanks for the album, Neil! It’s really fun. And thanks for watching, you guys are the best. Forever!