Handsome Boy Modeling School
here were no more samples of Chris Elliott’s classically insane Get A Life to use for Prince Paul and Dan The Automator’s second effort as Chest Rockwell and Nathaniel Merriweather. This is not a minor point: a large part of what kept 2000’s So…How’s Your Girl? playing as an album rather than a compilation, as guests from Sean Lennon to Sensational rotated through the tracks, were the skits sampling that one classic episode where Chris joins the bizarre institution from which Paul and Dan took their name. One of these skits, “Modeling Sucks”, was even among of the best songs on the album.
Yet no such claim could be made for any of White People’s painfully unfunny skits featuring Tim Meadows as, yes, The Ladies’ Man. Paul and Dan, knowing that the Dating Game skits sandwiching the album were just a poor shadow of the 3 Feet High And Rising game show, had to up the Wacky Factor within the songs themselves. “More guests! More cray-zee guests! Bring us John Oates without Darryl Hall! Do our fans like Jack Johnson? We’ll MAKE them like Jack Johnson! Julee Cruise isn’t working for David Lynch right now? She’s working for us!”
The Wacky Factor on which So… toppled and tipped but never tumbled was trampled. “Breakdown” was as pretty and forgettable as anything Mr. Johnson ever recorded, Julee Cruise and Pharrell Williams’ “Class System” too smugly ironic to provoke so much as a smile and Oates’ “Greatest Mistake” best described by its own title.
But the sacrificial guests were not all who suffered under Paul and Dan’s clean and boring new production style, where dull live instruments made for a barren stage. The cookie-cutter reggae guitar and bass on “The World’s Gone Mad” sounded as vaguely ominous as Del The Funky Homosapien indefinite lyrics (“Situation’s bad, not meaning good”); only Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos seemed frightened of the track, for he knew not why he was even asked to sing on it. And vague was the word. Cat Power’s “I’ve Been Thinking”: vaguely sexy. Dres of Black Sheep’s “First…And Then”: don’t call it a (vague) comeback. Vague rap-rock (“Rock And Roll [Could Never Hip-Hop Like This]”). The vague pain of existence (“The Hours”). The vague pains of indigestion (the listener).
Sour stomachs settled under the sounds of De La Soul’s genuine gratitude to those who helped them come up (“If It Wasn’t For You”), RZA, AG, and The Mars Volta’s genuine sleaziness (“A Day In The Life”) and the genuine comeback story of the album (Casual’s “It’s Like That”). Then, the listeners filed these songs away into their mp3 devices, and never thought of White People again. And Chris Elliott smiled.
Reviewed by: Josh Drimmer
Reviewed on: 2004-12-10