I didn’t know it, but I’d been waiting for this record for a long time. 9 years, in fact, because 9 years ago, influential emo-rockers Gatsby’s American Dream released their final, self-titled record. Don’t get hung up on that “emo” word, though. That signifier stems mostly from the unfortunate scene they were slumped into, not the music they made. GAD wasn’t writing breakup songs or teen heat anthems. They were smarter, more rebellious than that, more often than not employing literary, pop-cultural, & historical references in their lyrics & never shying away from an opportunity to take on the music industry. Their 2nd LP, Ribbons & Sugar, was loosely based on George Orwell’s brilliant novella Animal Farm. Their 3rd, Volcano (in reference to the historic city of Pompeii), included songs inspired by The Lord of the Flies & Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead. Their final LP even had nods to the popular television series LOST. Suffice to say, Gatsby’s American Dream was unique. Odd, but intriguingly so. They had no qualms with whistle-blowing on the bullshit the “scene” was manufacturing at an alarming rate. The band reunited in 2011 with hopes of recording a new LP, but the album was never completed & unfortunately will never see the light of day. Many fans were let down by the news, so imagine the abounding jubilation earlier this year when former GAD vocalist Nic Newsham & guitarist Bobby Darling revealed their new band, The Money Pit.
Fans of Gatsby’s American Dream would be hard-pressed to find the songs on The Money Pit’s self-titled debut shockingly different from what they’re used to. Sure, things are a bit poppier (not a bad thing, caustic dum-dums), more straightforward, and certainly more structured (predictability was GAD’s archnemesis), but Darling’s punchy grooves & Newsham’s sly, sardonic wit are as prevalent as ever. The choruses are bigger & catchier, but not too tonally or melodically similar. While The Money Pit is sonically consistent, each song stands on its own. The record, however, can’t help but fade towards its end. Its final two tracks don’t hold up to the rest of the record’s energy, but don’t misunderstand me – this is in no way a comment on their quality. Both “Frustrated Inc.” & “Devastator” are impressively constructed songs, but would’ve been better suited interspersed throughout the record. If, for example, “Frustrated Inc.” had been placed between the dancy “Control Everything” & the rollicking “Call the Cops,” it would receive the attention it deserves. It’s simply an issue of sequencing – superficial, sure – & this being the record’s only issue is a testament to its overall quality.
The Money Pit’s subject matter is a crucial aspect of its DNA. Newsham has swapped the literary & historical references for a focus on the bleak state of modern American society, which is evident in both the band’s name & the record’s cover art. Opener “I Want My Money Back” cleverly describes the disenchantment many of us feel – “You gotta wait for the punchline / I swear this one will kill you / it’s being thirty-something in America & running for a train that left the station without you.” Newsham takes on the vapidity of our entertainment culture (“Hold for applause & cue the laugh track / Is that Pat Sajak? / I’m spinning a wheel where every other space is black / this shit is whack, & I don’t fucking buy that”) before relenting a frustrated “Sometimes I wanna blow up everything.” On “Control Everything,” he confronts the depressing capitalist “predicament” – “Now that I’m the king of everything, I know that I can control anything / Maybe I could help the lower class / Maybe I could make a ton of cash.” “Killing Time in Hawaii” addresses the drudgery of being a workforce peon & the need for escape it instills with lines like “We work just to pay the rent” & “I could drag it out for another year, yeah / I could say what I think they wanna hear / but fuck that shit.” My personal favorite, probably because it’s the most energetic song on the record, is “Blackout,” which ditches the worries of the other tracks & meets disillusionment with the only proper response – drinking (“Last night was a blackout / a waste of time, waste of money / & tonight I’ll be back out, hoping to finally feel something / but I won’t.”) Closer “Devastator” puts the entire record into perspective with a bleak portrait of the future – “With an appetite to whet, & the coming resource stress / you’ll get yours, & I’ll get mine.” It’s insights like these that set The Money Pit far above much of the indie-rock drivel being put out these days.
The Money Pit is a more-than-welcome return of Newsham & Darling’s musical partnership. It’s been 9 years since they put out a record together, & somehow, they haven’t missed a beat. Longtime friend & producer Casey Bates kept things simple & lean, yielding a catchy garage-rock sound that’ll have you doing much more than just tapping your foot. Pick up The Money Pit on September 4th & put your summer to death with a bang.