CD Review of Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum by Tally Hall

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Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum
starstarstarstarno star Label: American Eagle
Released: 2006
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Once in awhile, a band comes along that makes you go, “These guys are awesome! Why aren’t they huge?” Then you calm down a little bit and realize, “Okay, they’re definitely awesome, and I think I can see why they’re not big stars…but, still, I can’t understand why I’ve never heard of them before!” But, finally, you give up the ghost and realize, “These guys are, like, crazy awesome…but they’re way too cool for the mainstream, which is fine, because the mainstream doesn’t deserve them, anyway, the elitist bastards!”

Yeah, that’s pretty much Tally Hall in a nutshell.

Tally Hall describe themselves as a “wonky rock band,” but, really, they’re all about the pop. If they weren’t, then band member Andrew Horowitz probably wouldn’t have won the BMI Foundation's annual John Lennon songwriting contest with his song, “Good Day.” Not wanting to waste a song with the Yoko Ono seal of approval, Tally Hall put the song to good use, using it to open their debut album, Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum.

It’s not particularly shocking that there’s a lot of Beatles to be found in the Tally Hall sound – “Taken for a Ride” is a Fab Four mash note, with a use of brass that’s right up there with “Penny Lane” – but it’s apparent that Queen is a major influence as well, as well as the off-kilter arrangements of Frank Zappa. Approaching the disc with a sense of humor is a requirement, as you’ll find that there’s more than a hint of the fun-loving goofiness of the Canadian one-two punch that is Barenaked Ladies and Moxy Fruvous. The latter comparisons are particularly valid on their theme song, “Welcome to Tally Hall,” which starts with some of the whitest rapping since Brian Austin Green tried to drop beats after leaving “Beverly Hills 90210”…and, yet, not only are the harmonies on the song consistently phenomenal, but somewhere around the three-minute mark, the instrumentation drops solely to that of handclaps,transforming the track into an almost a capella singalong. There’s a bit of calypso on “Banana Man,” a show tune on “The Whole World and You,” and a heartfelt tribute to the Olsen Twins on “Two Wuv,” sung from the point of view of…well, a stalker, basically.

Mary-Kate and Ashley
I hope you understand
That I love you a lot
And I wanna be your man
And I think
That it’d be totally cool
If I hung ‘round your apartments
And enrolled in your school

Equally parts catchy, funky, and wacky, Tally Hall have provided a skewed…okay, fine, a wonky musical landscape for your listening enjoyment. The musical diversity may be what keeps it from being instantly palatable for the average radio listener, but those with an open mind and an appreciation for things just slightly outside the mainstream will find rvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum an institution worthy of their support.

~Will Harris