Dramarama: Hi-Fi Sci-Fi

hifiscifiYeah, I had heard of Dramarama before. They were an 80’s band (and no, I’m not mixing them up with Bananarama, at least not entirely). Which makes it kind of weird that they’re on the Dig Me Out podcast. I mean, this definitely fits in the overlooked albums of the 90’s category, it’s just so rarely from a band that had even a modicum of success in the 80’s, much less a fairly sustained run like these guys did.

I like a lot of songs on this album. Heck, I like most songs on this album. But I’m not really all that into this album. It’s got some serious sequencing problems (putting the slow drag of a track “Senseless Fun” in at track six, where it must have been closing out side one, makes it obvious these guys hadn’t heard that vinyl and cassettes were kind of dead by 1993), and it doesn’t really know what it wants to be, vacillating wildly between disparate themes and tempi with very little cohesion between them all. Are we a wacky clever band, as the album’s best track, “Work For Food,” a clever first person story of an infantile homeless person who it turns out used to be a former rock star, and the “chocolate eclairvoyance” portmanteau from “Shadowless Heart,” would suggest? Or are we a wacky silly band as the execrable “28 Double Secret Bonus Tracks” (more appropriately listed as “Hey Grandpa” on Xbox Music) implies? Or are we deep and introspective to the point of annoyance as “Senseless Fun” and the line about her voice making you come on “Late Night Phone Call” suggest? Or is your true essence like a bad boy George Thorogood thing like on “Bad Seed”? And why do you follow up “Work For Food,” a song about somebody who has completely suffered for art, with a song whose key line is “Don’t you know it’s stupid to suffer for art?” WHO ARE YOU, DRAMARAMA?

If there’s one thing that holds this album together, it’s a strong anti-drug message. “Don’t Feel Like Doing Drugs” is probably the album’s second-best song, in part due to its awesome line about vacuuming the walls and painting the rugs, and “Prayer” mentions chain-smoking pot. And my notes don’t reveal much more, but I feel like there are a bunch of other songs that knock drugs, including “Work For Food.” Maybe not, maybe the thesis of this paragraph is null and void.

Anyway, with a different sequencing and nixing “Hey Grandpa,” I may have been able to get this up to four, or at least three-and-a-half, clowns. Probably not, though. It’s hard for me too look at these tracks and figure out a better sequence..they’re just too all over the place. Just in the first five tracks they pull out a whole host of tricks, but they’re still squarely in the alterna-rock vein. And then for the next three tracks they just start shooting wildly all over the place. “Senseless Fun,” as I mentioned, feels like it should be within the last couple of tracks of the album, but then they go in a completely different direction to start off side two with the bluesy rocker “Bad Seed” before going into the half-baked not-sure-what-it-wants-to-be “Incredible,” which, along with “Swallowed Your Cure” could also probably be chopped. They get back on track for the next two songs, “Prayer” and “Don’t Feel Like Doing Drugs,” but you’re still suffering whiplash when you’re listening to “Prayer” that it kinda zips by without noticing. And then they’re off in la la land again, pulling out a Southern rock, slow country thing in “Right On Baby, Baby” before going into the at-times wonderful but mostly confusing and slow and discomfiting “Late Night Phone Call.” And if they’d just ended it there, that would have been nice, but the insist on this stupid “Hey Grandpa” song where they have people call in (people seriously got invitations in the mail to record on an answering machine) saying “Hey Grandpa” in different intonations, which was the kind of crap that was only interesting in like 1993.

So anyway, what the heck. I don’t know. I rarely look forward to listening to this all the way through but I do like when the songs come up on shuffle.

Mix: “Work For Food,” “Don’t Feel Like Doing Drugs”
Like: “Introduction/Hey Betty,” “Shadowless Heart,” “Where’s The Manual,” “Bad Seed,” “Prayer,” “Right On Baby, Baby”
Meh: “Swallowed Your Cure,” “Senseless Fun,” “Incredible,” “Late Night Phone Call”
Hate: “28 Double Secret Bonus Tracks [Hey Grandpa]”
Song Notes: After the jump

  1. Introduction / Hey Betty – cool drums
  2. Work For Food – great lyrics
  3. Shadowless Heart – “don’t you know it’s stupid to suffer for art”. “chocolate eclairvoyance”
  4. Swallowed Your Cure – this is fine but not all that memorable
  5. Where’s The Manual – great choruses
  6. Senseless Fun – seems like it should be a final track. Seems longer than its 4:30.
  7. Bad Seed -George Thorogood. “Learned how to read before I learned how to write” <- rebel.
  8. Incredible –
  9. Prayer – “chain smoke pot”
  10. Don’t Feel Like Doing Drugs – if you’re gonna put one song from this album on a mix, it’s this one
  11. Right On Baby, Baby – great piano
  12. Late Night Phone Call
  13. 28 Double Secret Bonus Tracks –OR– Hey Grandpa – two minutes at the start of people calling in with the “Hey Grandpa” s**t. Includes Mojo Nixon, Davey Jones, and what sounds like Bobcat Goldthwait.

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