You don't need a dictionary to enjoy The Honeydogs' new album, Amygdala, but it might help. As you listen, you'll come across words like algorithim, veneer, placebo, zeitgeist, apotheosis, serotonin, atavistic, basura and microphage. Clearly, singer/songwriter Adam Levy utilizes the most obscure vocabulary in rock.
Thankfully, Amygdala is also the most melodically pleasing, if not straightforward, set of songs The Honeydogs have created in their 10-plus years. The band is coming off an excellent concept album, but somehow that accomplishment has the effect of making a collection of unconnected songs seem that much sweeter.
That's not to say that the songs don't speak to each other. A trio of the album's tunes are simultaneously informed by the politics of the world and the politics of the heart. Opener Too Close To The Sun could be read as a break-up tune or as a condemnation of the leadership of our country: "After all of these sweet years / Came the tooth decay." Belle Epoque ("beautiful era" in French) echoes that sentiment in its chorus, "oh, there she goes Belle Epoque's left us again." And the most affecting and straightforward of the triumvarate is Truth Serum. The song is addressed to Levy's teenage son, who expressed an interest in fighting in Iraq: "But you're too young to die / for something you don't understand, why? / I've loved you since you were born / Don't go." Later, he asks in a very fatherly tone, "What's the b-plan?"
But, dare I say it, most of the songs seem to exist just for the fun of it. Rattling My Tin Cup and Devil's Advocate are all wordplay and rockin' out. Don't Cut To The Chase revels in handclaps and harmonies. Elan Vital is an old-fashioned sing-along.
There's pretty stuff too, the title track for one. Heads Or Tails features a charming lead vocal by guitarist Brian Halvorson. And Ms. Ketchup and The Arsonist (one of three songs with Honeydogs fan Aimee Mann on vocals) is jazzy, light-heartedly cruel and novelistic.
I couldn't be more impressed with this effort from a band that gets better with every album. Adam Levy's songwriting is nonpareil, the production is benignant and the perfomances are paradisiac. In other words, it's damn good.
Fave Song: Elan Vital
Fave Line: "And I have no regrets / Only epithets" (from Too Close To The Sun)