A Big Yes and a small no by Relix
Available in the September/October, 2008, issue of Relix.
The Beautiful 'Composure' recalls Ben Folds' more adventurous work.
5 out of 5 Stars by Pop Syndicate ShareThis
Music: Pop: Rock:: 4 comments: by Kayode Kendall
How can a band be so charming, witty, and mean-spirited all at the same time?
There’s nothing I like more when it comes to alt-pop bands than a sharp sense of humor to compliment the musical stylings. From the moment A Big yes and a Small No’s debut begins, you can’t help but be drawn in by the bouncy, whimsical combination of acoustic guitar, trumpets, keyboard, and vibraphone, followed by the unbridled silliness of the opening lyric (“Yesterday, I robbed a bank and blew it all on flowers”). It’s this coy charm and wit that immediately hooks you in, as things only get more absurd. “I’m Always Manic (When I’m Around You)” certainly qualifies for one of the weirder love songs in recent memory, as lead singer Kevin Kendrick offers up more off-the-wall lyrics; “like starting a bloodless coup/ the movement’s on and the revolution is you”. It’s cute and disturbing at the same time.
As an album, Jesus That Looks Terrible On You definitely aims to be clever and even a little satirical, making for a collection of satisfying songs. Slightly mean-spirited in its lyrics, “Composure” is still a delightful piano-driven duet with background vocalist Moira Meltzer-Cohen, while “Jesus That Looks Terrible On You” is more of a somber, rock-heavy pseudo ballad. Oddly enough, it’s followed up by the boisterous “Faded Away”, a throwback to the uptempo beatnik surf-rock of the 60s. The band throws listeners for a loop yet again, however, with “If You Won’t Beg”. Deliciously seedy in its faux-romanticism, the song evokes feelings of being out at make-out point, and all the awkward emotions that could come with it.
Normally I can’t stand when an album is as brief as Jesus That Looks Terrible On You (boasting only eight songs, with a few coming in below the three-minute mark), but the quality of the music goes a long way. Every track is immensely enjoyable, with smart and funny lyrics, and well-crafted melodies. It’s a feel-good album that’s not afraid to take listeners down into the dumps.
I Love This Album in an Almost Irrational Way by AM NY CD Review: A Big Yes and A Small No, "Jesus That Looks Terrible on You
I meant to write about this a while ago, but never got around to it. I really love this album, in an almost irrational way. It's poppy and melodic and fun, but that in itself is nothing special. What makes this album great is its clever lyrics that teeter on the brink of novelty, but sustain multiple listenings without wearing out the joke.
I am a huge dork for wordplay, and they've totally hooked me with the album's title, which could be parsed thusly: Jesus [exclamaition] that looks terrible on you. But in fact, they're actually addressing Jesus the man as a subject. Brown robes are out, apparently.
These guys are huge dorks [said with love] as well, though, which is perhaps why I like them so much. Unafraid to be jubilant in their compositions -- which is rare for a Brooklyn band in this day and age, Matt & Kim aside -- they embrace a variety of styles, including the dreaded ska. Don't get me wrong, they're not a ska band, but they do employ that nasty two-tone beat in a few songs ... as well as some horns.
My favorite song on the album has to be "Composure," which you can hear on the band's MySpace page. A rolling ballad narrated by a man almost unhinged by his emotions. The lyrics keep driving forward, employing a sort of musical enjambment, each sung line overflowing into the next, and almost leaving behind the rest of the band.
Anyway, their internet presence is almost nil, but they are playing a few local shows in the coming weeks (they actually played last night): Pianos April 24, and Union Hall May 15.
A Big Yes and a small no, jesus that looks terribl by Pop Matters A BIG YES... and a small no
Jesus That Looks Terrible on You
(Thorough Left Records)
US release date: 13 May 2008
by Chris Baynes
Write to the editor
A BIG YES…and a small no are many bands in one. Not in terms of personnel, you understand (though with six core members and double that contributing to this album in all, they’re hardly the most slightly staffed band around), but stylistically, their debut tip-toes schizophrenically through jazz, pop, indie and ska with the comfort of an outfit who’ve been playing their trade for a decade or two but the vibrancy of one only just getting started. The likes of “I’m Always Manic (When I’m Around You)” and “Faded Away” are playful, smile-on-my-face brass-tinged pop with a nod in the direction of They Might Be Giants, in contrast to the slow-burning indie-rock of the title track and the plaintive sigh of “Looking Over My Shoulder“‘s glockenspiel-speckled folk. Star of the show, however, is the mischievous “Composure”, in particular the suave Kevin Kendrick’s wry wordplay ("You need closure / So I’m proposing / If you keep composure / I’ll keep composing") and the pass-it-along instrumental fugues in between. “This Doesn’t Quite Feel Like Goodbye” can’t quite cut it with the rest and at just under half-an-hour Jesus That Looks Terrible on You is one of those pesky albums reviewers can’t decided whether to prefix with mini-, but its such a genuine delight to hear a band experimenting fruitfully and having fun that that’s an easy issue to forgive.
They Know by Blurt (formerly Harp)
Sounds great, “looks terrible.”
BY CHRIS PARKER
Deep inside A Big Yes and a small no’s singer/vibraphonist Kevin Kendrick was a pop craftsman dying to escape. He only had to survive a kidnapping in Cartagena, Colombia (while surveying their cumbia scene), a heroin addiction that contributed to the demise of his old band Fat Mama, and a near-career in jazz to realize his calling with the Brooklyn chamber pop quartet.
“I was raised to believe that if you weren’t playing classical music or straight ahead jazz, than what you were doing was somehow not legit,” says Kendrick, from his Crown Heights, NY home.
After matriculating from Bristol College in England with a graduate degree in composition, his post-graduate goal was to make “intelligent, interesting pop songs” ranging across genres. He returned to New York and ended up hooking back up with his Fat Mama mates. He played with a lot of people, he says, but no one really shared his vision.
Indeed, it’s the subtle musical touches and Kendrick’s keen lyrical wit that keep the twee-tinged tracks on Jesus That Looks Terrible On You (issued May 13 on Through Left Records) interesting. Like a lot of great pop from Burt Bacharach to Brian Wilson, the virtuosity is designed to be hidden and seem effortless. The eight-song debut flounces from bubbly 2-tone pulse (“I’m Always Manic (When I’m Around You)”) to shimmery atmospheric pop (the title track) and jazzy cabaret pop (“If You Won’t Beg”), all delivered with Kendrick’s arch clever coo — like Stephin Merritt sweet-talking Stuart Murdoch.
“iPod shuffle is so much the way people listen to music,” says Kendrick. “You don’t necessarily have to listen to several different bands to get [variety].”
A Sure-Fire College Radio Classic by Traxx by Maxwell K 23 SEPTEMBER 2008
i'm always manic (when i'm around you)" || a big yes and a small no || 2008
Another song that falls into this "college pop" genre that I discussed in the previous post.
This is a surefire college radio classic. The first time I heard this tune, I complimented our station's music director on what I thought was the best song she'd chosen since taking the position four months ago.
College radio is built for tunes like this one. You'd never hear this on MTV, or on your local Top 40 station, but for college radio, it's a superhit. (If you're looking for another great example of college radio superhit, check out the song "Beard Lust" by Natalie Portman's Shaved Head from just a few posts back.)
Another tune that falls somewhere between indie rock and ska, "Manic" leaves you feeling sugary and delightful. It almost sounds like a tune that would have played in the background during an episode of Ren & Stimpy. I could just be saying that, however, because it makes me think of angular furniture, cookouts, and shag carpeting, but in a totally cool way.
If I were making compilations of college radio classics about 10 years from now, I'd include this track on my first release. I think it's a perfect milestone for this moment in modern music, and a song that should be tucked in the backs of anyone's mind who works in college radio during this era.
A final thought: The title of their album will make you smile.