The Archrivals are sort of an alter-ego version of local indie-pop act Stephaniesid, with keyboardist Chuck Lichtenberger as the Archrival, singer/guitarist Stephanie Morgan as Dancer Delight, and a revolving cast of local musicians also affiliated with Stephaniesid (and The Chuck Lichtenberger Collective, and Alien Music Club) rounding out the live show.
But this is about the band’s debut, self-titled album; a dozen songs that, in true alter-ego form, step away from the sleek and tightly crafted pop of Stephaniesid. The whole disc, from Lichtenberger and Morgan’s aliases to the album art (the Archrival in afro wig, basketball uniform and cape showing off his Elvis-style kung fu moves) is tongue-in-cheek. This is also a send up of pop music. The songs are Lichtenberger’s (he sings lead), pairing disco-y beats with melodies that range from dance-y (“Let’s Go”) to hip-hop (“Hit Me Loud”) to jazz-influenced (“Love”). And there’s a lot of comedy in the lyrics: “Break a pool stick at the Merle show, tearin’ through the pit cause we said so,” he sings on “Hit Me Loud.”
Dig a little bit past the humor, though, and Lichtenberger’s tucked plenty of commentary on American society into the bubbly, toe-tapping rhythms and melodies. “Let’s stop buying gas, let’s stop driving cars, let’s use those handlebars,” he chants — in falsetto — in the first lines of “Let’s Go.” That song careens, propelled by thick bass, through a new-wave labyrinth of pleasantly discordant repetitive verses.
While the whole album is clean, crisp and fun (Lichtenberger makes this look far too easy), there are some standout tracks. The soulful, syncopated “Everything,” makes excellent use of Morgan’s gorgeous voice on the chorus and the dynamic last half-minute or so. of tension throughout the songs that makes. Lead track, “Dig It,” shows off Lichteneberger’s falsetto in a Prince-style number that’s both deeply groovy and deliciously — whether intentional or not — melancholy. And, finally, “Hit Me Loud,” on which Lichtenberger raps. Think Beastie Boys-lite e.g.: less agro (except for an especially menacing guitar chord). Or Offspring e.g.: “pretty Fly for a White Guy.”
Usually novelty albums quickly lose their appeal — this is not the case with the Archrivals’ effort. But seek out this group’s live show if you can. There’s the music but also the costumes and personas and the Archrival always pits himself against (and loses to) another local musician. Good times. Mark your calendars: The Archrivals play the LAB on Friday, August 13, 8 p.m.