"Natural Selection, (eastwest records)
Natural Selection

by Bob Bahr

I'm not a big pop music fan, in the strictest sense of the word "pop." Listening to WDJX, Louisville's poppiest radio station, tries my patience after 15 minutes or so. I consider a good pop record one that doesn't make me slowly drool or make my eyes glaze over with boredom.

Natural Selection has a low drool quotient, but it is a far cry from stimulating. Composed of Elliot Erickson and Frederick Thomas, Natural Selection makes likeable enough, run-of-the-mill, thin pop songs. Their melodies, when completely thought out and completely presented, are hooky enough to stick with you. Good enough for the radio, not good enough for the Grammys. (Strike that. The Grammys are unpredictable enough to honor a mediocre duo such as this.)

Broadly put, Thomas handles the vocals and guitar parts for Natural Selection, Erickson the electronics. Broadly put, the two handle their jobs effectively. Thomas' vocals are quite limited, although they certainly don't hold the band back too much. His voice just doesn't propel them above mediocrity. On the guitar, he embellishes well but without substance, like parsley embellishes a steak.

Erickson programs like a champion hacker raised on James Brown records. Nothing outstanding here either, and come to think of it, I can't recall ever hearing a recording with bad programming. Unlike a bad drummer, the computer never wavers in tempo. And Natural Selection's music requires no fancy tempos or tempo changes. My apologies to keyboardists who tackle the job of programming, but I just don't see it as being that tough.

Natural Selection is best off when they soak their songs in Stevie Wonder of a task on a record such as thisa marinade, giving their dance rhythms a little flavor. "Please Answer" and "Let's Get It Together" have this panache, and serve as bright points among the 9 1/2 songs of their self-titled album.

The gem of this set is "Do Anything," Natural Selection's huge hit. Nearly every listener will surrender to the groove and feel of this beat-dominated trifle, despite lyrics (courtesy of Thomas) such as "Make it smooth to the groove/Like sandwich bread." Ouch. "Do Anything" is admirable for its varied vocal parts, including a well-used rap segment and sexy backup spoken words by an uncredited female vocalist. The instrumentation could be from the 1980s, the lyrics could be from an eighth-grader. Still, "Do Anything" is a clear winner. A remix at the end of the album is a very bad rehash and reworking of the hit version, thus the designation of a half-song.

You could do worse buying Natural Selection's album, but you could do better taping "Do Anything" off the radio.