Men Called Him Master
Reviewed by Aaron Shuman
Monday, December 6 1999, 12:47 PM
It's hard to dislike a band that tries to promote its CD on the basis of who mastered it. Earlier this year, Haywood enthused the legendary Howie Weinberg would be mastering their new release. This was followed several months later by the revelation that Howie Weinberg would, in fact, not be mastering their new release. Both posts remain on their Haywood Website. Now that's cute.
In the first half of Men Called Him Master, Haywood maps out the terrain of male adolescence, with songs devoted to smoking, going out for sports, the happiness to be found riding one's bike or someone else in "your father's Trans Am." There's time out for "parties leaking all over the floor" and discourse on scene politics, before the album reaches its sad boy second half, where lads flee the terrors or rejections of love to cut neater guitar figures in the bedroom.
Haywood is smarter than your average bear. Only one song reminds me of Green Day, which is pretty good these days. "The Kids Are Taking Aim," which opens with high-school pep rally clap and tambourine, proves there is room to explore teenage anomie where "Smells Like Teen Spirit" left off. "Block" opens with an aurora borealis of feedback: drums ground the guitar haze with a light waltz, then push to the power-chord apotheosis. Conversely, there are understated ballads like "Little Black Dress Club," where wordplay is as seductive as the loose, shifting textures of the music.
Haywood serves up a good stew of underground styles. Minneapolis power-pop is the base, with a dash of Kill Rock Stars' manifesto-makers, and a whole lot of alt-country added by the down-tempo end. If music is the marinade, then vocalizing is the meat: Haywood's (unnamed) lead singer channels prophets of punk from Bob Mould on, with words worth listening to, and harmonies that ring.
Childhood rarely tasted so good. Haywood's topic is the unbearable sweetness of being, which they concoct while steering largely clear of the preciousness too many pedophiles succumb to. While men may call them masters, Haywood is a band more than their mothers can love. Just remember to brush after you eat.
Men Called Him Master is a Self-Starter Foundation Release