Less Than Art

Ookla The Mok

Independent release, 1997


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Speaking of quirk-rock…

All right, let's face it. The standard disclaimer for life is that nothing ever recorded by the Big Record Companies is as good as the weird stuff recorded in someone's basement. Sad part is, most of the time, it's true. There's a certain vitality that the Bigs leach from most artists, a raw and exciting edge that often gets lost. And sometimes, just sometimes, if you take the time to dig amongst the uncut gems of independent releases, you might find something fun.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Such is NY-based fen-rock band Ookla The Mok's 1997 debut CD, Less Than Art. In addition to having the single greatest cover of all time (from whence, obviously, comes the title of the CD) OTM is a purveyor of fun, science fiction tinged rock and roll, full of injokes, puns, and some pretty tasty guitar licks to boot. In short, this is what Barenaked Ladies' Maroon CD wanted to be.

There are two types of songs on Less Than Art; there's the funny ones, and the…well…not so funny ones. From the funny side, we get "Number One", a juvenile yet hilarious look at what exactly was missing from the plans of the USS Enterprise, and "Arthur Curry", the lament of the world's most unappreciated superhero.

Then there's the other songs, proving humour isn't the primary ingredient in this musical goulash. Instead, OTM provides us with some of the most thoughtful, thought-provoking, and honest lyrics I've ever heard. Songs like "AGeD", "Still Can't Buy Me Love", and "Home" are poignant documentations of growing older and still playing music, while "View Master" goes straight for the subject of childhood toys and how much we regret losing them as we get older. "Murder She Wrote" is a seemingly shallow song that actually has a bitter and biting commentary hidden in it on love and priorities. And "Fly", closing the CD, is a transcendent, bright, aggressive end to a brilliant piece of work.

Sadly, Less Than Art is out of print. (If you're lucky, you might find a copy in a used bin or from a filk dealer somewhere, and the band's web site has their later CDs). If you see a copy, grab it. It's a refreshing reminder of how good music can be when you don't have anything to prove.

Rating: A-

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