Glen Engel Cox | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 07/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For most people, Timbuk 3 is the answer to that music trivia question of what band had the one hit in the mid-1980s about the future being so bright you have to wear shades. But for those of us living in Austin, Texas in the 80s, they were the little band made good on the same Indie label as R.E.M., and when their second album didn't strike the same national chord as the first, we shrugged and thought the third would. But it didn't, nor did the fourth or the fifth even though fans like myself bought them. Pegged as a novelty band, their fifteen minutes were used up in that one song, to be replaced on national radio by quirkier bands like Smash Mouth, Barenaked Ladies and Cake.I like all their albums, but I find this debut to be the most consistent although certain later individual songs are stronger. At the time of this release, Timbuk 3 were the husband and wife team of Pat and Barbara McDonald. Pat played guitar and harmonic while Barbara played bass or guitar. The unofficial third member of the group was the boombox with drum loops. For their live shows, for example, Pat would place the boombox on a stool on the stage of the Hole in the Wall, a burger joint on the Drag next to the University of Texas, and he and Barbara would swap out cassettes depending on the song they wanted to play. (They would later expand to an actual four piece with a rhythm guitar and drummer.)Greetings from Timbuk 3 captured perfectly the quirky and unconventional arrangements fostered by being a two-piece trying to sound larger (think They Might Be Giants). The opening one hit, signifying its difference from the run of the mill with the opening funky guitar and harmonic, then the nasally voice of Pat singing, "I study nuclear science / I love my classes / I've got a crazy teacher / He wears dark glasses." Personally, the song appeals to me as much for the intertwined voices of Pat and Barbara (recalling some kind of 80s indie Fleetwood Mac) as the implied sarcasm (or is it understated irony) of the lyrics. Like the Mac, each song features the harmonies of a male and female singer, with one voice taking a slight lead.The album switches between the goofy ("Hairstyles and Attitudes"), the serious ("I Love You in the Strangest Ways"), and the indescribable ("Facts About Cats"). But all of the songs have infectious melodies on the order of "The Future's So Bright," albeit neither vocalist has a strong or soothing voice, typically sounding more like Stan Ridgway and Exene Cervenka than Elvis Presley and Karen Carpenter. What then becomes the focus is the lyrics, which, even in the love songs, are clever and surprising. For example, in the song "Just Another Movie," Pat sings:"Presidential elections are planned distractions
To divert attention from the action behind the scenes
Like a game of chess when the house is a mess
Or a petty money squabble when your marriage is in trouble
Or a football game when there's rioting in the streets"I'm sure some of why I like this album is its Austin routes. But the main reason it appeals to me is its strange blend of cynicism and humor and the egalitarian union of male and female. It's an album that reflects me, my beliefs and style, and that proves it irrestible."
Greetings are too often farewells
Greg Kessler | Athens, OH United States | 02/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Pat Mcdonald was much more than a "one hit wonder" songwriter as so many here have suggested.
The bands that led the charts in the 1980's hardly deserved to even be compared to artists like Timbuk3.
If you had lived through the Reagan period and cared at all about politics you would have realized that few other bands were as relevant and focused as Timbuk3 (I would argue that Camper Van Beethoven and Elvis Costello were and appear to remain so- just check out New RomanTimes or Delivery Man respectively).
Way beyond the "Future's so bright" (BTW frat boys: it was always meant to be ironic) there were songs like Prey, Dis***land was made for you and me, Border Crossing, All of Eden Alley (which I still think was much better than the first album), Waves of grain, too much sex and not enough affection, and many more.
These songs may have been musically limited to a period, but they were timeless in lyrics...just an example from "prey" today is more relvant than it was even in the Reagan/Gingrich era:
You never pray for peace you pray for victory you never pray for love you pray for abstinence
You're mind's stuck in reverse and life keeps getting worse you say you pray for blessings but it works just like a curse
You pray for the godless ones the ones who will not pray You pray for a savior who will blow them all away you pray on your bible you pray on bended knee and every time you say a prayer you prey on me
I just wish I could drop by the record store tomorrow and find that Pat McDonald has written masterpieces equivalent to the many from Timbuk3 to address the atrocities of the Bush Administration. While we can barely keep up with the rate of impeachable offenses it may be difficult, but there is so much waiting to be written.
Everything that Timbuk3 did is still worth listening to!"
Intelligent and witty...
A. Ort | Youngstown, Ohio | 09/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One couple, a few guitars and a drum machine makes some great music. They are most known for 'The Future's So Bright' (which is darker than its upbeat rhythm indicates) but the best tracks on the album come after this one.The music is simple but catchy and driving. The lyrics are very thought provoking and perhaps a bit on the cynical side but they are observant and spot on. It seems quoting the lyrics is perhaps the best way to give a taste. My personal favorite comes from 'Hairstyles and Attitudes':"It may be just hype but the latest findings cause me to tremble
Categorizing us by which of the three stooges we most closely resemble..."This one's a treasure waiting to be found."
Definitive alternative band; Definitive alternative album
Marion Delgado | Eugene OR | 12/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I didn't listen to Timbuk3 until 90 or so (except "The Future's So Bright"). My then girlfriend had this and Eden Alley and 100 lovers and so on. I really think it's in the tradition of seminal college music as much as bands like REM, Pylon, Let's Active, the Feelies, etc."Just another movie" is a good example:
"Presidential elections are planned distractions to divert attention from the action behind the scenes - like a game of chess when the house is a mess, or a petty money squabble, when your marriage is in trouble, or a football game when there's rioting in the streets. It's just another movie, another song and dance, another poor sucker who never had a chance."I think T3 were the most listenable with fast songs like "Future's so Bright" and should have done more of them. But there are no bad songs on this album and a lot of treasures."