The Giraffes is a solo project from Chris Ballew of Presidents of the United States of America fame. Blinking into existence in 1998 with 13 Other Dimensions, followed by The Days are Filled with Years, which, I honestly didn’t know about until trying to write this up, so holy shit that makes two new albums to enjoy in one week, when it rains it pours, anyways. We Hear Music, their third album, just kind of appeared this week and has been made freely available with no intentions of selling it at cost which is a pretty cool treat in the middle of a summer such as this, it being a double album just makes it all the more fun. While 13 Other Dimensions is a very tight, connected experience of sonic bliss, the 33 track behemoth that is We Hear Music feels more like collection of material than an album, which is fine, it’s just a distinction that I like to make. Don’t take that as a derogatory statement, there isn’t a bad song in the bunch, the collection just doesn’t seem to have the same overall direction as 13 Other Dimensions.
For everyone’s sake I won’t dive into too much detail on the individual tracks, but here are some standouts from my first few listens. Grief is a strangely sobering track about a guy wanting out of a relationship he feels has run it’s course, the melody is very easy going with a soulful guitar guiding us through the story, “I knew the truth, the the power of your depression, could turn my heart to hamburger, turn my trust to dust, turn my calm to dynamite“. Tucked in Love has a fun lightly 60’s fuzz feel to it. I’ve played it several times trying to pay special attention to the lyrics, but I just can’t. That’s one of the things I love about Chris Ballew tunes, I can get lost in them without caring about the lyrics. I feel bad that there is some kind of fog of war between me and the meaning, but I’m happy just to be lost in the sound waves. Radio Control is an alternate version of a PUSA track of same title, though this version feels reminiscent of the dialed down first Clash album, specifically Remote Control and Janie Jones (the drums especially from this). Though the break halfway through really helps this version to stand out, and in many ways has made this my favorite version of the song, and I really liked the original.
Mister Microphone starts off like a cover of Harry Nilsson’s Driving Along, which hey, great choice 🙂 This song had some of the most fun lyrics out of the album for me, starting out with this great line “Hey Mr. microphone, your cardioid heart is bursting, your unidirectionaly thirstin’ for loving lips upon your head.” With this other great bit later on, “Hey Mr. Microphone your plug is overheated, condensed and Teflon treated, you’d like to fade her back, but your batteries dead.” It’s just a great song about a microphone, its very sweet and a fun listen. Ribby Rib has a great rhythm driving through it, very Jail Guitar Doors. It kind of deals with evolution, Jesus, volcanoes, and Darwin, all things that belong in a toe tapping Ballew track. I Groove Way Too Much On You and Hurt a Fly, are two fun tracks, again focusing on creating an inescapable sonic-pop singularity of head banging fun. Emergency Transmission sums it all up, an etheric, climactic track about what happens when you make a promise to your stomach about listening to your brain. It has this little nugget of a line in the middle, “dropped a load in the middle of the road, and never have I ever felt so damn free.” Despite that beautiful line, the overall idea is someone who feels out of place and is conflicted about everything, which is something most of us can relate to at some time or another. It’s a good foot to end on considering all of the ground covered in the album.
Chris Ballew’s The Giraffes, have always, and continue to be albums that are just fun. There may not be an overwhelming amount of nutritional value in them, but DAMN are they satisfying to have every so often. The fact that the still is recording and releasing these albums continues to give me hope for music out there in the audioverse. So, if you like treating yourself to some candy coated tunes, I highly recommend giving We Hear Music a listen below, and if you enjoy, follow the link and download it for yourself, free of charge, and spread the love.