|Posted by Electric Needle Room on February 24, 2011 at 6:14 PM|
The Electric Needle Room tackles the presidency -- in song
By Luke X. Martin, Thu., Feb. 24 2011 @ 7:35AM
Chances are, you're not quite who you set out to be when you were in high school. Making it as a professional athlete takes more dedication and genetic predisposition than most people have, and those dreams of touring the country with your band are long gone.
But this is America: land of the free, home of the brave. A place where anyone can grow up to be president. Right?
The fact is, the U.S. presidency is one of the most elite and elusive clubs out there, with a total membership of exactly 43 in nearly 222 years. So, with his prospects for becoming the leader of the free world getting dimmer and dimmer by the day, Overland Park musician and part-time history teacher Matt Beat is doing the next best thing: He's writing a song about each president.
The Kansas native's band, Electric Needle Room, has been making quirky indie pop under one name or another since the mid-'90s. Their latest effort, The Presidents of the United States of America, Volume 1, is a lo-fi chronicling of the careers of the first 15 presidents. (Expect the second volume next year.)
"I've always been fascinated with presidents for some reason," Beat admitted recently during a phone interview. "I memorized the presidents in order when I was, like, 10," he said. "It was extremely dorky."
The same can be said of the new album, officially released on Presidents Day, Feb. 21 (go figure). It's filled with delightful melodies and easy-to-remember hooks that split the difference between Ween and the theme song to Home Movies with some synthesizer thrown in for good measure.
"The songs are really about the legacy of each president," Beat said, "the good things and the bad things." He means that literally. Can't seem to remember who the last Whig president was, or which was the first to be born an American citizen? Look no further than "Millard Fillmore," a bouncy summer jam, and the delicate "Martin Van Buren," respectively. The album might be the perfect companion to your next game of Trivial Pursuit.
Despite the esoteric subject matter and the obviously low recording budget, if not taken too seriously, The Presidents of the United States of America is intensely accessible. The album runs the gamut, from the straight-up indie-pop opener "George Washington" to the synth-heavy "Thomas Jefferson."
Ultimately, the album is a labor of love. "It's something I've always wanted to do, I just now got around to doing it," Beat said. As for his own presidential aspirations, Beat seems to have put them on hold. For now, he'll stick to what he does best: making smart, slightly off-center pop music.