The Listening Room
Less Than Art
10th Anniversary Reissue
by Ookla The Mok
by Seanan McGuire
Ten years ago, Ookla the Mok, those pioneers of geek rock -- not geek folk, not parody rock, but genuine rock-and-roll songs about comic book characters, the mating habits of movie monsters, and the location of the bathroom on the Enterprise -- released their debut, a CD called Less Than Art. It was fabulous. It was an epic masterwork of bizarreness and musical acumen, and it touched my teenage soul in places that were probably illegal in at least six states. I loved that CD with a painful intensity, and promptly recommended it to all of my friends.
This, unfortunately, proved to be somewhat of an issue, as a few copyright issues involving sound clips caused the album to go out of print, and stay that way for years. Hundreds of people, deprived of the joy of Ookla...
In 2007, Ookla the Mok decided that the world had suffered without their debut CD for long enough, and took it back to the studio to have it remastered, and the offending sound clips removed. One small step for man, one giant leap for not getting sued by Paramont! Finally, in the summer of that same year, Less Than Art was returned to the world.
Have you ever wondered what a recording engineer actually does for a CD? I mean, what so-called 'proper' mixing and mastering can do for a recording? Well, this is what. The original Less Than Art was an excellent debut effort, especially since it was helping to create a whole new genre. The lyrics were clever, the tunes were catchy, and the instrumental arrangements were inventive and new. Bearing all that in mind, who cared if some of the songs were a little muddy and hard to follow? It was too awesome to be damaged with such trivialities.
Only the new mix proves that those aren't trivialities, because suddenly -- without a single re-recorded vocal line or tweaked guitar line -- it's a completely different album. The process of remastering the original twelve tracks with the added skill of a decade of making music has enabled them to truly elevate what was already there, making bass lines crisp and clean, guitar lines blazing, and vocal lines suddenly distinct and easy to follow. Luis Garcia's drums underscore half a dozen other instruments (including Rand Bellavia on the trombone), Michael Mallory's bass is strong and sure, and Adam English even plays the accordian. How cool is that? Adam, Rand, and Luis provide the vocals, Rand and Adam wrote the songs, and an awesome time is had by all.
You want comedy? Try 'Number One', which illustrates Cmdr. William Riker's poignant plea for a bathroom break, or 'Arthur Curry', in which Aquaman acknowledges his overall lack of cool (although I'd contest the line 'my orange costume's uglier than any other colour'). You want geek nostalgia? 'Viewmaster' is essential a paen to the childhoods of those of us who grew up in the seventies and eighties, and its message extends well beyond those decades. You want sweetness? 'Tiberius Rising' is a father's acceptance of his own son's destiny, while 'Home' manages to find the line between dreams and domesticity, and walks it perfectly.
There were twelve songs on the original Less Than Art, and all of them are reproduced here, only better. And more, there are three bonus tracks -- newer various of 'Number One' and 'Arthur Curry', plus a shiny new song, '(Just Another) Just Another Cliche'. Fifteen dollars gets you sixty-five minutes of music...and all of it is good.
If you like rock and roll with a sense of humour, check this out.
You won't be sorry.
You can hear sample tracks from Less Than Art and order copies of the album at CDBaby.com.
© 2007 Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire is an author and songwriter who lives in the San
Francisco Bay area, with her insnae cat, Lilly, and enough plush animals
to populate a metropolitan zoo, if a metropolitan zoo heavily featured
dinosaurs. Her first studio album, Stars Fall Home, was released
in 2007, and can be ordered from her webpage at h
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