I usually like albums with some sort of unifier. It could be an overarching story, a running theme, or just a word that pops up a few times over the course of the record. No matter how obvious or how trivial they are, I love the things that tie it all together; whether it's the crumbling marriage in Tallahassee, the music-will-fix-our-relationship outlook of Revenge Songs, or just the general fuzzy good vibes of Clouds Taste Metallic, it's the unifiers that keep me coming back. They're why I listen to the whole album, instead of tearing out the best songs and forgetting about the rest.
But I've broken my own rule with two recent purchases: All the Stuff We Do and Doubly Unbeatable, both by a band called Cars Can Be Blue. I saw them play here in Cardiff recently, and since they were flogging their CDs for £5 each (as long as you signed their mailing list) I treated myself to a double. Neither of these albums has much in the way of a concept or a theme; you've got songs of love (I Wish I), songs of hatred (So Cheap), and plenty of songs about doin' the nasty (Dirty Song, D in the P, Pretty Special, She Needs It...I could go on). You've got hippies, groupies, cute guys, perm guys, Batman...it's just a girl speaking her mind about a bunch of stuff, with a guy who sometimes chimes in to back her up.
And that's awesome, but we're not about to find any unification on the lyric sheets. How about in the music itself? Well, it's true that the majority of these songs are lo-fi garage rockers with less chords than the Sex Pistols, but even that doesn't fly as a unifier. To call either of these albums a collection of fun, fuzzy indie rock songs would be to forget about the sexy lothario synths of Do You Want It? (The SEX, I Mean)* and the unpleasant stomp that underpins Cycle of Violence. D in the P and Bend That Rod even have operatic bits, if you can believe it. Oh, and a song called The Pincher that sounds like it's being sung by Maximillion Pegasus from Yu-Gi-Oh!
So what is there to tether these records together? Very little, actually, and that's what makes them so much fun. As the title of the first album suggests, it's just all the stuff they've done, lumped onto a CD and sold to anyone who wants it. And believe me, you do want it (the CD, I mean) - both of these albums are chock-full of rad little songs that will make you smile, laugh, and rock out. CCBB have something for everyone, and that's why everyone should investigate 'em.
Incidentally, I bet the Cars Can Be Blue guys hate pretentious write-ups like this, all italicised album titles and concept-pondering. I kind of hope they never read it.