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Buy Showtime at the Apocalypse

The Mystechs
Showtime at the Apocalypse
label: ???
released: 2002
our score: 3.0 out of 5.0
buy it: here

What the World Needs Now?
by: geoff ashmun

The death of humor as an intelligent, heartfelt force in pop culture. Who can say when and why? This much is certain: 1) Prince, formerly the Jedi Master of Camp, hasn’t evoked so much as a chuckle from me since 1998 and 2) God better work some magic on Richard Pryor and bring him out of retirement or we’re in a world of trouble.

I’m of the opinion that what we as a species need desperately right now is a deep, soulful, knee-slapping, hyperventilation-inducing guffaw to lift us out of this godawful funk. We’ve become so full of ourselves that we can’t even pick up an album like Mystech’s Showtime at the Apocalypse and do anything but scoff. We look at the amateur cover art (FYI: there’s this nifty thing called “Photoshop” now) and the Pet Shop Boys-meets-Star Trek fay attire, hear the retro ’80s synth pop bleeps and dismiss it as just another cheeky punch line in a joke band’s repertoire.

Granted, Showtime isn’t a masterpiece. It’s not even very good. With exception to “Riverboat,” balls-out rocker “My Kind of Slum” and the beautifully sparse guitar-electric violin combo, “Skyscraper,” the record is a willfully outdated amalgam of cartoonish instrumentation and schmaltzy vocals. In a sense, it’s a charming, well-executed collection of songs with plenty of hooks, but when confronting the issue of long-term listenability, its most promising audience is probably thirtysomethings nostalgic for the days of Max Headroom and Men Without Hats.

Lyrically, however, Showtime is a pleasant reminder of the subversive potential in even the most innocent, forgotten styles of music. “Captains of Industry” mocks corporate culture’s mission to fashion obedient consumers out of each and every one of us. The lead-off title track is a fun little nuclear fallout song anchored by Emil Hyde’s surprisingly chunky guitar riff, as Nick Bye plays the weekend warrior making social plans amidst the wreckage. “I got a pre-war Beetle with plutonium speakers that’ll take us where we want to go,” he sings. “I’ll pick you up later at the smoking crater where they used to play rock ‘n’ roll.”

Amidst the wealth of overt political satire, the band sounds a number of introspective notes, particularly on the ode to underachievement, “Crushed Tomatoes.” Imagine what might’ve happened if the Eels contributed a song to the Clerks soundtrack circa 1983. “I tried to start a cult but I couldn’t make any converts/so I tried to shoot a porno but I wasn’t enough of a pervert/I tried be successful but I lacked the proper credentials/I tried to be a beggar but I didn’t want to bother anyone.”

Mystechs will probably never gain much credibility outside of retro dance clubs, but they clearly aren’t looking to, not on this record anyway. On Showtime at the Apocalypse, the Mystech’s most redeeming quality is a fairly sophisticated sense of humor, not least of all in relation to itself. For that reason I count it much more worth your time than 99 percent of the so-called nu metal bands presently slobbering their pretentious venom all over the air waves. There’s enough of the real thing right now.
30-May-2003 2:21 PM

If you liked Showtime at the Apocalypse...


1. Showtime at the Apocalypse
2. White Boys
3. Shouldn't Be Dancing
4. Captains of Industry
5. The Last Man Alive On Earth
6. Riverboat
7. Crushed Tomatoes
8. By and By
9. My Kind of Slum
10. Skyscraper
11. Tourist
12. Radio Ghosts