Bishop Allen

By - Aug 1st, 2003 02:52 pm
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By Jeremy Saperstein

Bishop Allen Charm School The Champagne School

One of my favorite songs is from a thrift-store record made by a Midwestern high school choir in the mid-70s. The chorus, sounding so sincere that it almost makes my teeth hurt, is a peppy cover of “Kites Are Fun”, full of optimistic voices and youthful enthusiasm.

Bishop Allen’s Charm School is sort of like that. Recorded entirely in the apartments of Christian Rudder and Justin Rice (on a single microphone, we’re told), the songs are simple and upbeat and the voices bouncy and ebullient, occasionally slipping into the mannered vocals of that high school choir.

It would be easy to dismiss Bishop Allen amongst the horribly serious artistes of the alt-rock world today — the ones who deliver stern messages about our lives and failings — but it would be wrong. The songs on Charm School aren’t as much about particularly weighty topics as they are about pretty girls in sundresses and throwing couches from the roof (“Bishop Allen Drive” ). Even when lyrical expressions of angst or ennui slip in (“Sleeping on the subway in my interview tie/Wander through the rain, sit and wonder why/I haven’t got a plan, I haven’t got a clue/I’ve only got one lonely thing that’s gonna see me through” from “Little Black Ache” ), the surrounding music chases them away.

Another favorite is “Busted Heart,” which uses spirited ensemble vocal interplay to soften the blow of lyrics like “Did you ever think, think/A lotta people everyday who will surely drown.”

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