Charming: Get down with Bishop Allen
It’s a tossup whether it’s more enjoyable to read the liner notes to the indie-pop group Bishop Allen’s first release, Charm School, than it is to listen to their music.
But for once I mean that in the best possible way. The CD’s 24-page insert booklet contains complete lyrics for all the album’s songs, one scribbled page of what look like random lyrics to an imaginary track, and some full color pictures of the group in which they appear to have just returned from a Sunday School treat (actually, they are keeping with the “Charm School” theme).
And did I mention the multiple-choice pop quiz at the end of the booklet, which contains questions like number 4, “How is the female antagonist’s attitude in ‘Bishop Allen Drive’ [song #4 on the CD] best described? A. Insane B. Triangular C. Reminiscent D. Flubbed.” (I think the answer is “A.”)
The music, wouldn’t you know, is dammed good fun as well, with elements of those late eighties/early ‘90s powerhouses, The Pixies, combined with a looseness and propensity for hand-claps that brings to mind such Teenbeat (the Northern Virginia idie label) acts as Blast Off Country Style.
The band is composed of Christian Rudder on guitar, Justin Rice on vocals and guitar, Margaret Miller on drums, and Bonnie Karin on bass. Rudder and Rice form quite a nice song-writing team, turning out 13 well-worded and insanely catchy pop songs. Rice has lead vocal duties, with Rudder and Karin, the “singing bass-player,” providing backup ranging from singing to shouting on the choruses in the vein of ‘80s hair metal acts like Quiet Riot.
And in case you’re up on Internet goings-on, Rudder is also the founder of TheSpark.com, the subversively humorous website, “which boasted 2.5 million visitors a month in its heyday.”
Hailing from Brooklyn, the group has been playing publicly for only a few months, but has already seen a review of their album in Rolling Stone (four stars). This is definitely not due to the band being part of the currently hip New York scene-– Bishop Allen are about as far away from the Stokes or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as it’s possible to be, considering the acts all fall under the larger category of “Rock.”
The songs on Charm School are simple (liner notes speak to all songs having been written “in the keys of C G D & A”), up beat, and extremely danceable-– as in, make sure you wear comfortable shoes to their Tokyo Rose performance Friday night.
In the end, I think Bishop Allen’s music wins the battle between offbeat prose and clever songwriting, but since you can go to the group’s website (bishopallen.com) and pick up a copy of Charm School for $10.99, it won’t take mucho dinero for you to decide for yourself.
Bishop Allen performs at Tokyo Rose on March 21. $5, 10:30pm.