Songs About Stuff
Miranda Records, 1992
REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/28/1997
College radio used to pride itself on its separation of mainstream radio. In the 80s, there were floods of artists who had no chance of landing on mainstream radio:The Replacements, Husker Du, Sonic Youth, the Minutemen, the Cramps and Sisters of Mercy to name a few.
Now, in the 90s, a lot of college bands get transported to mainstream radio faster than someone turing on the 'on air' button. Nirvana, Tori Amos and 311 are all examples of college favorites who found an audience of mainstream radio. Hell, even Sonic Youth has landed a song or two on the more mainstream 'alternative' stations.
If one artist of the 90s is to be condemned to college radio, it would be Wally Pleasant. Pavement, your hit is coming. Reverend Horton Heat... the swing/ska trend HAS to pick you up by your next album. But Pleasant is college rock personified.
With only an acoustic guitar, Pleasant strung 14 memorable songs out with his first album, Songs About Stuff. From his own record company in East Lansing, Michigan, Pleasant is free to direct his sharp, observational humor on almost everyone.
"Small Time Drug Dealer", "Cool Guy With A Car" and "That's Evolution" are hilarious acconts of slackers. Any person who has had to share an apartment or a house with roommates will no doubt find the humor of "Psycho Roommate" to be dangerously close to reality. "Psycho roommate/if she stepped in front of my car/ I doubt I would even swerve," Wally laments about a roommate relationship turned ugly.
Pleasant's high pitched voice is best compared to Morrissey. If Morrissey were to ever take humor lessons from Mojo Nixon and vocal lessons from the Flaming Lips, he would essentially be Wally Pleasant. Unfortunately, Songs About Stuff is an album that you can only take in certain doses. A couple of his songs are a hoot to listen to, after a couple of more, his voice tends to grate on you like that "Barbie" song from Aqua.
Pleasant refined his humor and his musical skills on his next few albums, with Houses of the Holy Moly being his best work. Still, Songs About Stuff is a purchase that is almost essential for any college rock fan. Too jaded and introspective to be lumped together in the geek-humor rock genre and too much of a sense of humor to lump him in the Pavement crowd, Pleasant is a treasure who's work can only be truely experienced when seeing him live, with 150 or so fans... and a lot of beer.