Bicycle's self-titled CD
"Bicycle" CD has creative sampling, style that borrows
By Brian Conant
Didja hear the one about the biker, the ex-president and Jesus?
Maybe not, just yet, but very soon you will as Capricorn Records readies the eponymous debut album from Bicycle, a scattered mish-mash of pop culture and road-ready pop tunes geared for heavy rotation and alt-radio success.
"Bicycle" is primarily the work of Kurt Liebert, a New York native, former pharmaceutical employee and motorcycle enthusiast (he's the biker) with a voice that at times is so sugary that images of Matthew Sweet will dance through your head.
Drawing heavily from all things folk, rock and hiphop, Liebert makes his debut a swerving collage that pays as much tribute to eight-tracks and sample machines as it does to the endless, dusty road he so often relies on for the basis of his whimsical lyrics.
The road warrior/musician is wise enough to garner help from those who have weathered the road ahead of him, and few have as many road scars as ex-Presidents of the United States of America frontman Chris Ballew, who produces (and sings some back-up on) a healthy portion of the album's 14 tracks.
The most obvious comparison that sticks its thumb out as Liebert navigates the road to pop stardom is that the biker may merely be tailgating the true post-modern genre twisting virtuoso Beck -- and the complaint is not without merit.
The seventh track on the album, "Bionic," begins with Liebert, in monotone, spewing a confusing array of jagged observations ala Beck's "Loser" (my favorite lyric: "Avocado girl with the cigarette pack/Rutabaga head/with his hair gelled back/and the baby in the butter") which culminates against a guitar-induced chorus of "I'm a poet poser prophet priest," and might as well tack on "I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?"
Yet Liebert is not the first, nor will he be the last, to take the path Beck hath taken, and for what it's worth his journey is more than a standard trip down memory lane.
Listening to "Bicycle" is a lot like witnessing a head-on collision of musical proportion -- and yet there are relatively few victims.
The opener, "68" (and ode the biker wrote to Highway 68), combines a super-catchy hook with plenty of guitar and voice distortion, a salsa-flavored acoustic interlude, some scratchy-scratch from the turntable for good measure, and a chorus that's unintelligible if not for the liner notes (which indicate that Liebert has seen fit to remove a letter or two from the phrase "Climbs eternally toward the sun" in order to make it fit).
On the very next offering, "Daisydunes.com" (which is, incidentally, the band's Web address), Liebert is able to collide the bass line from Tom Cochrane's infamous road anthem "Life is a Highway" (which of course, was first the bass line for The Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil," with much less speed) with samples of a thunderstorm, a dog barking, yet more scratchy-scratch, and another breathless listing of pop phenomena.
Much like Beck and Ballew, Liebert keeps control of this wayward vehicle by balancing the flippant nature of his lyrics with pop sensibility -- and vice versa. Just as Liebert hacks at the words in "68" to keep the song's fizz intact, his chords drifts amicably in "That Cat" so he can meander at will as this bizarre exercise in stream of consciousness lyricism unfolds.
Of course there are a few more conventional confections to be found here. Of the three or four standard poppers, the undeniably Smiths flavored "All of Her Chords" is a bit too paint-by-the-numbers and "Electrolux" sounds so much like a Presidents of the USA song Ballew (who is very predominant in the backups) might as well have just taken the lead.
The punch-line comes in the form of the album's most eclectic head-on, "Oh Jesus, I'm Dying," where a story line involving Oprah, Geraldo, Godzilla, Uma Thurman and the ambiguously identified "Dave," develops amid the backdrop of Liebert's ukulele and dramatic interpretation, happen upon difficult times at a rave.
We may not exactly "get it," nor did it seem we were supposed to, but in this quirky and enthralling musical journey, Liebert proves he is no joke, and more often than not, the rubber does meet the road.