red lights



The Majestic Twelve - Schizophrenology
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 9, 2006
The Majestic Twelve

Review by Brad Walseth

We Northerners have a strange and unsettled relationship with our fellow citizens in the American South. Sure they have given us William Faulkner, Carson McCullers & Edgar Allen Poe, but they have also given us "Freebird," interbreeding hillbillies, and hanging chads. So it is a bit unsettling to discover that perhaps the best unknown band in the US today hails from one of the red states - North Carolina. Named after the supposed secret governmental committee formed to investigate UFOs, The Twelve aren't really 12, but rather 5 talented musicians from Wilmington who - in an increasingly rare act, actually think and play at the same time.

Led by vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kenyata Sullivan, The Twelve at their best sound like the Gang of Four moved to Nashville and married their American cousins the B-52s - and the result is surprisingly a beautiful and seemingly healthy baby! The ferocious "Welcome to the City" should be the theme song for all yuppies, while "Condoleezza, Check My Posse" places blame squarely where it needs to be placed. With its refrain of "I will rule the world forever, I'm straight and white and male, American and free," over a percolating beat and beehive guitars is an utter delight, and a nice change from the usual navel-gazing "woe is me" focus that is the center of most indie rock these days. A bridge with vocal harmonies singing "Rush Limbaugh" and "Ann Coulter" in heavenly voices strangely works, as does the repeated "Me, me, me, me, me..." Sullivan and friends have obviously taken a close look at modern society and are quite willing to skewer greed and war fever with music and biting humor.

"Cry" seems to be a look into a disintegrating relationship and is quite good, but a bit more pedestrian, and begins a slight descent in quality as the songwriting becomes more serious and unfortunately conventional. "Trapped Underwater" continues the trend - a nice dynamic rocker whose primary attraction is the nice guitar flurry on the choruses. "Grandfather (Sweet Baby Jesus)" is a solo piano ballad that is pleasant, but may be too personal to really grab the audience. "Whispering" starts with some glorious vocals that are unfortunately not reprised later in the song and instead inexplicably turns into something we all fear and dread: a banjo-driven hootenanny (those darn Southerners just can't resist, can they?).

Just when you are ready to write them off as mirage, The Majestic Twelve pull out their punk leanings and environmental concerns on "Break it and Breathe" - and this is where they seem most comfortable and successful. "Thank God Everything on TV is a Lie" is great fun and should be required listening for the youth of today; while the catchy rocking "American Rage" is perhaps the scariest song out there - because it's so true. "Are You Ready?" ends the album with an accordion-laden ska call to action that reminds one of The Clash though less strident. A bit sketchy at times, but remarkable in its courage to stand up to an atmosphere where " we have before us blind, gigantic masses without judgment, and these follow anyone who is clever enough to wrap himself in the glittering and seductive mantle of freedom..."(Hermann Broch - "The Death of Virgil") Schizophrenology is a welcome entry from a band whose music and ideas are deserving of a wider audience.

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