** The Presidents
FREAKED OUT AND SMALL
after a couple years off, this is the same Seattle trio who were once known
tongue-in-cheekily as the Presidents of the United States of America. The name
has changed, and so has their label affiliation, but the Presidents' approach
remains pretty much the same -- revved-up little guitar-driven ditties that are
as fun as they are funny, and as catchy as they are silly. "Jazz Guy," with its
snide "I wanna be a jazz guy/Play black music for white people" refrain, is
about as message-oriented as singer/guitarist Chris Ballew and his crew get.
The Star Wars-inspired "Death Star," which is indeed an ode to Darth
Vader's giant fortress/weapon, is more up the Presidents' alley.
Unfortunately, simply shortening their name isn't going to change the fact that
the Presidents remain a joke band, and through no fault of their own the joke
started wearing a bit thin after the first album sold its second million. Joke
bands have a short shelf life, and the Presidents did well to cash in early.
The way the cheesy Farfisa/Vox organ tones give some of the new material more
of a retro-'60s flavor only drives home the conclusion that though Freak Out
and Small is full of smart little hooks, it can't help sounding a bit
-- Matt Ashare