Dark Pop?

Before We Spark (Initial Records)
Ultimate Fakebook

By Kevin Gibson

I've read a couple reviews about this disc that have called it "darker" than Ultimate Fakebook's previous efforts. Even the liner notes say so. Hmm. I agree that the trio doesn't focus on melody as much as in the past with this release, but darker?

"Rotting On the Vine" certainly doesn't hold back in terms of being an all-out guitar assault, but I'm not sure that qualifies as dark. "We'll Go Dancin'," meanwhile, puts plenty on the plate in terms of instrumentation and production, but are there really any dark songs about dancing?

However you might hear it, one blessing remains: Ultimate Fakebook's snotty sense of humor. Subtle it is, but if you know what to look for, it's priceless stuff. Specifically, we know from the song "Real Drums" (from the band's second album, This Will Be Laughing Week) that Ultimate Fakebook loathes synthetic music. With that in mind, one can't possibly take the trippy, dance-club remix of "Inside Me, Inside You" (from the band's last album, Open Up and Say Awesome) seriously. I hear this as an elaborate, six-minute prank. And it's damn funny.

A couple of gratuitous instrumentals don't add much, but "Catch the Beat" and the fun (albeit sarcastic) "Record Release Party" - an unapologetic shot at groups that sound like every other band on the radio (think Blink 182, Good Charlotte and that ilk) - round out this collection nicely, making it a worthwhile listen. Dark? I'm not so sure. I'd say this is just a case of a good rock band making a good rock record. And there's not a thing wrong with that.