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  The Monster Within  
  Recent Photo  
Release Date:
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Recent Photo are a Chicago-area quirky pop band that sent us this promo several months ago. It's a shame i haven't reviewed it until now, because this is some fun and enjoyable music. It isn't deep stuff though, and post-rockers will find the music trite, but for those of looking for something with a catchy beat and oddball lyrics, The Monster Within is a worthwhile album.

From what i can tell on the band's website, Recent Photo is based around one Derek Wu, a refugee from numerous other Chicago acts that i haven't heard of. He made the music on this CD with bass, vocals, a drum machine, and the help of numerous guests. His quirky melodies and competent sense of rhythm, coupled with his deep voice, make this record play like a lighter version of The Magnetic Fields, and i do not toss that comparison around lightly. This is music made with more charm than technical prowess, especially in the recording arts. It has a great sense of melody, some catchy rhythms, clever lyrics, and a general upbeat attitude.

The best song on the disc has to be Love My Keyboard, which is a love song to the new keyboard Mr. Wu obviously acquired just before writing the tune. It has a cheesy drum machine riff (a preset on the keyboard, no doubt), and a happy rolling bass riff. The end result is Stephin Merrit meets Electronic Renaissance, which is a good thing really.

Another really great tune, sure to be a staple of mix CDs for years to come, is the aptly titled Bullshit, wherein Mr. Wu rants about stuff in his life that is, well, bullshit. "Show seven forms of ID???" he sings incredulously and disgustedly at the same time. This song is not angry, but rather frustrated and annoyed. Wu sings over a nice bass part and a really catchy drum beat. Minimal, kind of bitchy, and fun. Good stuff.

But there are more sounds here than just drum machine and bass. There is a great fuzzed out guitar line on Small Crumb, A, and another distorted guitar pairing with a female guest vocalist on Criminal Boy. Wu's voice has a decent range, at times reminding me of The Jazz Butcher (Derailment) and at others of David Bowie (the epic monster movie theme song, Gigantor Obscura). The album is pretty eclectic, and that keeps things interesting.

Overall, this is a very fun record, and i mean that as compliment. Mr. Wu has crafted a fine album. He is not going to change the world with this album, or inspire people to deep thoughts and personal introspection, but he has made a record that you can tap your feet to and laugh along with. That is certainly an achievement. I hope he keeps at it. The world needs more levity.

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