Hoboken, New Jersey’s Cropduster purportedly named their second
effort Drunk Uncle because the band members call each other “Uncle.”
It’s not the most inventive nickname, but it is appealing in a
sophomoric way, like something the guys on Friends might come up with.
Cropduster’s songs teeter on the same fine line, the one between
endearing and stupid, packing in tight alterna pop hooks and quirky
instrumental breaks (involving the likes of cowbells matched with
distorted guitars) like the ones that Cake and Fountains of Wayne built
their names on back in the mainstream modern rock heyday of 1996. But
that was a long time ago, and these days, Cropduster’s Marc Maurizi
offers a cocksure, jokey lyrical style (“Five, six, they always follow
three and four”; “Got a lot of friends/they all know my name”) and
nasal, Mellow Gold croon that too often come across an act; worse, there’s
the sense that maybe that act has the band itself, fooled too.
That’s not to say that the quartet’s music isn’t catchy and
well played -- tracks like “People Person” (about hating People
magazine) and “Mind Rock,” the record’s most fuzz-laden and least
self-consciously ironic number, are rollickingly strummy. And with
production slick as a bowling alley, at the very least, Cropduster doesn’t
sound like a bunch of wannabe mainstream alternarockers -- they sound like
the real thing.