Panel from Judo Joe comic book issue #2, October 1953
The Russian Futurists (aka Matthew Adam Hart) have finally delivered their long-promised fourth album, The Weight's on the Wheels, and it delivers the bouncy indie-pop that Hart's been creating since 2000's The Method of Modern Love. I've followed the Russian Futurists for years, and, while Hart's been a strong songwriter from the beginning, it's been interesting to see his murky, Magnetic-Fields-influenced synth-pop morph into something more compelling and creative.
However, most of the familiar Russian Futurists characteristics are still in full display on The Weight's on the Wheels. Drum machine beats bop along under Hart's squeakily-sung, verbose lyrics with keyboards, some neat samples, and various embellishments. My ear was immediately drawn to new sounds, like the squint-and-its-Daft-Punk intro sample of "Golden Years" and the use of female vocals (Ruth Minnikin, prominent on the call-and-response "One Night, One Kiss" and Johanna Maloney, more subtly used in "Walk With a Crutch"). The album's excellent closing track, "Horseshoe Fortune", adds acoustic guitar and mandolin for a nice organic feel as well.
Not all the experiments on The Weight's on the Wheels work well. The promising "Register My Firearms? No Way!" takes a nosedive when it hits the chorus, where a vocal sample playing under the chorus lyric makes for a muddy mess, uncharacteristic for a band that keeps its choruses clean and direct with sing-song melodies. The '80s hip-hop sounds on "100 Shopping Days 'Til Christmas" don't really work either and the song sounds monotonous. I'll admit, though, that my favorite songs on The Weight's on the Wheels are the ones that stick closes to the Russian Futurists playbook. "To Be Honest" would sound at home on 2002's Lets Get Ready to Crumble, as would the album opener "Hoeing Weeds Sowing Seeds" - these two songs use a straight-forward approach that emphasize Hart's clever turns of phrase and deceptively simple melodies.
"Hoeing Weeds Sowing Seeds" by the Russian Futurists