Before he wrote his third album under his Say Hi to Your Mom moniker, Brooklynite Eric Elbogen must’ve listened to “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio,” in which the Ramones ask, “Do you remember lying in bed, with the covers pulled up over your head? Radio playing so no one can see?” Ferocious Mopes is just the record for this activity. It’s unreasonably catchy lo-fi pop designed for staring at the ceiling with your headphones on, and it’s fair to assume the album was conceived in those strange, hazy moments when consciousness slowly works its way to the surface.
Elbogen recorded the album in his bedroom (you can’t really tell) with a healthy fear of waking up the neighbors. The minimalist, repetitive beats and rarely dialed-up guitar carry his gentle, legible vocals and ensures that his storytelling takes center stage. This is crucial: it’s unlikely you’ve ever had thoughts like Elbogen’s, and if you have, it was probably when you were a child or when you were experimenting with hallucinogens, and you probably don’t remember them. His songwriting is a series of descriptive, bizarre events that most won’t have a point of reference for. Topics covered include the distant future, robots (which have graced the cover of each album), overzealous brain machines, mumbling old women with toads for pets, and really only being sure of one thing: that unicorns don’t exist.
But that’s not to say it’s not confidently presented. Elbogen has a kind of snot-nosed cockiness that you don’t typically find in a genre that exalts the perpetually wounded. Namely, he has a serious sense of humor. In “Yeah, I’m in Love With an Android,” he justifies his physical relationship with a robot: “Stranger things have been loved.” And after being dumped by his girlfriend in “Recurring Motifs in Historical Flirting,” he knows the other guy will never measure up: “I’ll fight him in a dance-off, and I’ll win.” Distorted guitar even kicks in to give him a little something to wiggle to.
And the analogy of drowning has never been expressed like it is in “Dimensions and Verticals.” Elbogen takes it from the perspective of a stick-man on a notepad requesting penciled in air-bubbles from his three-dimensional former lover who has just flooded his two-dimensional universe with spilled coffee. Yeah. He’s adept at building just the right amount of tension (the menacing bass line of “The Forest Scares the Hell Out of Me”) but, in keeping with the tone, lets it evaporate before it gets too serious.
Maybe emo would be aging better had girls not gotten in the way. No matter, the technology is here for geeks everywhere to move aside the D&D and record albums in their basements and help you realize that your own thoughts aren’t so weird.