Harry In The Cupboard

June 20, 2009 at 3:41 AM | Posted in CD Reviews | Leave a comment

Right now, yes this very MINUTE, I’m reviewing Harry and the Potters’ 2008 EP (of the month… of July) In The Cupboard. As of writing, leftovers are still available, in limited supply, at their website, but as that will change and it is not available on iTunes or Amazon (yet?), and I just got it, I’m reviewing it regardless of it being a year old. If you are a year old, perhaps you will enjoy this review when you learn how to read and use the bathroom.

Unlike other HATP releases, this one focuses not so much on specific books, but on poking fun at some of the inconsistencies in the HP universe. The CD, a departure from the lushly produced Power of Love, is a low-fi, basically monophonic, sixteen-minute venture (yes, even lower-fi than their first album), and unlike the previous EP, has longer tracks in order to deal with these wizarding concepts in slightly more detail.

The first track, the somber guitar ditty “Priori Incantatem” proves this by stating, “Dad, I just don’t understand why you came out of Voldemort’s wand before mom…”

“The Economics of the Wizarding World Don’t Make Sense” raises the question of how Ollivander stays in business when he sells wands so cheap, considering there are only so many kids buying them. The track, like a wand, is made of only two parts: drum and simple synth melody.

“Alohomora,” as you could probably guess, asks why anyone locks stuff up when there’s a simple spell to unlock anything. This song has basically the same instrumentation as the previous track, but rocks it harder.

“The Chamber” boasts a bargain basement guitar line and poses some questions about snakes in England that I certainly can’t make out, but maybe you can.

“Dudley!!!”, a drum-and-sax track, has Harry asking his cousin for the luxury of one of the creature comforts we take for granted (I won’t spoil it for you, as the song only has one line).

One of the catchier tracks, “Fleur is Fine” is a self explanatory song employing an Atariesque synth melody.

You may have heard “Expulsion During Disapparation” on the band’s MySpace (a site people used before Twitter), which no doubt gives a good representation of the record’s low-fi, sparse, hardcore/punk nature.

Guitar track “Nearly Headless Nick” merely points out the unfortunate dilemma of one Hogwarts ghost.

“Ted,” as you might have spent a fair time trying to guess, is about “Teddy” Lupin, and compares him to a certain cuddly item.

Final track “Ice Cream Man” is appropriately the longest and catchiest song on the collection. Inappropriately, or perhaps fittingly for the unusual nature of the EP, the lyrics are a very obscure reference to something all but the most OCD of re-readers will have to look up.

If you’re looking for a terrific followup to The Power of Love, something sonically lush, fully of catchy tunes and impressive production values, In The Cupboard will leave you sorely disappointed. Whereas the previous EP-of-the-month had those qualities, it only had three songs anyone would call full-length. And where this EP has mostly full-length songs (relatively speaking), it has roughly the same number of songs that seem complete. The first and last tracks transcend the production (which is to say, the live recording), along with “Expulsion…,” but only “Ice Cream Man” sounds like something that would benefit from a full recording (probably negated by the obscurity of the topic). Everything else fits the low-fi, off-the-cuff style to the point that you can scarcely imagine them any different.

This CD is more of an experiment than anything HATP have done in the past, save the Scarred For Life EP. As it was played “essentially live,” there’s no more than one instrument per track in addition to drums and vocals. Recorded on a Tascam Portastudio, it’s mono save for some panning artifacts. This is about as unpolished as it gets. As we all know the Harrys can do better, it is obvious that this is exactly the release they wanted to make. And from a punk perspective, it’s an admirable and bold effort. But as it was put out as a rare EP-of-the-month, the fleeting nature of the release makes such an experiment seem a little too easy, compared to their priori incantatem (if you will) of challenging themselves to write as many songs in one weekend as they could, and making them sound as if they had been thoroughly planned despite the running times.

While I strongly appreciate the nitpicking and fun-poking of the first few tracks, this is lost in the perhaps questionable novelty of the disc’s later efforts, and ultimately I found what I’ve heard of The Enchanted Ceiling to be funnier. Even where the lyrics pass the HATP standard of quality, many become casualties of the production. Despite the noble sub-punk ethics at play (there’s no bass guitar), the cardboard-sleeved disc, sans lyrics, would have benefitted from slightly more clarity, or a smidgen of stereo separation to free the vocals. If that meant adding one more instrument, and letting someone else play the drums, I’m sure no one would have faulted the premise.

As it stands, I’d be surprised if this was anyone’s favorite HATP release, save the odd Ted Lupin or Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington fans. As an extremely amateur and undedicated audiophile, it’s not really my cupboard of tea. Begrudgingly worth the current $5 asking price, but not something I’d pay more for on your Amazons or your iTuneses, because, well… we all want that disc emblazoned with Wandicorn, don’t we?

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