Fragility and beauty ala Big Star
Perry M. Koons | Crownsville, MD United States | 09/24/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Game Theory was quite an anomaly in the early 80's - while most power pop bands wanted to sound like Cheap Trick or Rick Springfield, Scott Miller and crew were channeling Big Star to great effect, with some modern flourishes such as female backing vocals and occasional synths. Even with an early album like Real Nighttime, the first produced by pop hero Mitch Easter, Miller's songs sound accomplished and mature - although unlike his newer band Loud Family the ballads far outshine the rockers. This may be his most direct and accessible effort - I was lucky to find it for $30, snag it for anything less than $50 because it doesn't seem likely to be remastered.Best Tracks:
"24" - After the 8 seconds of the jerky intro "Here Comes Everybody" (in tribute to Finnegan's Wake, like the liner notes), 24 kicks in with delicate acoustics and grows into a simply great song. Hilarious low volume fade out with chords from "Stairway To Heaven."
"Waltz The Halls Always" - New wave fluff that beat the pants out of Animotion or Culture Club or ABC or Depeche Mode or (you get the picture)
"If And When It Falls Apart" - Big Star's Third meets the Velvet Underground's self titled third. Beautiful song and vocals.
"I Turned Her Away" - Though Miller is often the victim of his heartless romantic interets in his songs, in this song he turns the girl away, and makes you feel even more sorry for him. Insanely catchy song that isn't just a lyrical waste."Couldn't I Just Tell You" - Todd and Scott should collaborate - I love this cover."
No game and too well practiced to be just a theory
calmly | 03/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sprinkle some of the Beatles in with some of the Beach Boys and add a Northern California sensibility. Keep the quality high.
Somehow find a way to keep the publicity low: I have no idea how. Well, there's undoubtedly no recipe to produce a band as special as Game Theory. "Real Nighttime" is just one of many excellent works by them. A very clean one with many excellent songs. Some of my favorites are "24", "Friend of the Family", and especially "I Turned Her Away" but it's not easy to choose. The cover of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" holds its own. The cover of "Couldn't I Just Tell You" goes beyond that. I have no music training and not such good karma but the first time I heard this (about 10 years ago) I felt I had found something very special. Still do. Some things in life are pure gift."
Here GT begins to make good on its promise
John L Murphy | Los Angeles | 02/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've rated many Loud Family & Game Theory recordings now on Amazon, and I seem to give them all four stars, even though LF remains securely in my top five favorite bands and GT's always a strong contender for top 10. Scott Miller here brings his sound into its mid-80s maturity. He leaves behind the more callow, awkward phase of studio tinkering and cheap budgets. Produced by Mitch Easter, this 1984 disc is the first of seven LPs that he'd work with Scott and his two bands on over the next decade or so. Clearly Mitch had an ear for the potential within GT and SM, and he begins here to broaden and expand their rather tinny power-pop sound. Freed of the limitations of self-production, under Easter the music that Miller and mates made began to reach the summits of smart pop-rock that refused to be cloying and dared to be erudite.
Some songs plod along dutifully but lack pizazz, at least as I hear them two decades later. Rayon Drive shows Miller's love of keyboard tinkering, but fails to sustain momentum. Curse of the Frontierland is a great title, but the song gets whiny, always a danger with Miller as he knows! She'll Be a Verb is a well-written song, but too close to its influences. The middle of the album drags somewhat into plaintitive moaning about the unfairness of it all. It improves with the last five entries, however.
My favorites are, in order: Waltz the Halls-- this shows the strong melodies and catchy choruses GT began to create. Scott and band begin here to find their style and recognize its potential within three-minute bursts. Friend of the Family-- a rather rare example of the band rocking out harder than usual, but done with aplomb. Is it about the Manson cult? The cover of Alex Chilton's You Can't Have Me seems a surrender to the Big Star-GT comparisons Scott Miller probably welcomed, but while it captures the desolation of the original, it is a bit rushed along. On the other hand, seeing it's a song one can wallow in, perhaps a better arrangement was made by GT to hurry up the song a wee bit! The maudlin dangers that Chilton and Miller both could fall prey to weaken 24, which too self-consciously imitates earlier power-pop sensitive mid-tempo angst-fests, and the title track also skitters too fast past to make much of an impression.
The highlight, I agree with the other reviewers before me, is I Turned Her Away. Sort of like the indie-label take on REM's The One I Love? A rejection song done equally well by former REM producer Easter and GT on probably a much smaller budget! Any Other Hand sounds like a throwaway near the record's end, but it's done with brio. I like the Beatles cover tucked in as well; it takes no liberties with the original, but it does convey its sunny spirit, which this record (and Miller's general worldview) needs a dose of to allay the gloom. The economic closer, a cover of Todd Rundgren's Couldn't I Just Tell You, recalls GT's earlier Davis college radio days in its reversion to Chiltonesque and early 70s songcraft-- this is meant as praise! Ten years before, this band could have been the Raspberries or Badfinger in its ability to condense longing and lingering into a 45/7".