For a bunch of Canadians, Moxy Fruvous is sure interested in American politics. With Bargainville the fruvous charge after conservatives and consumerism with their usual tongue-through cheek humor, acoustic instruments and big harmonies. Unlike past albums, however, the instruments are mostly missing on this effort with many of the songs sung a cappella. In fact, comparisons to Rockappella are definitely in order.
The album opens with "River Valley", a sad song of longing for better, more ecologically-friendly days. "Stuck in the 90's" is a prime example of Moxy's political lyrics with lines such as "Clem had a daydream / Picked up the headline / His country was made up of singers / And no more right-wingers." Of course, this is all embedded in lush harmonies, light acoustic guitar, and a blues harp. Songs like "B.J. Don't Cry", with it's quirky lyrics of lost love and ultra-catchy melody sung in a funny voice give this band the moniker of the "Canadian They Might Be Giants", a label I don't believe they deserve. "Video Bargainville" is another great song with a Munsters guitar lick, old radio vocals, and accordion playing this creepy minor key song. But for me, the album goes quickly downhill after this. The remaining songs have very scant instrumentation (such as "The Lazy Boy", an ode to the world's most comfortable chair and it's inhabitants where only a single snare drum is included in the thick vocal mix) or none at all. I can enjoy a song or two sung a cappella but I'm big on variety. After four or five songs in a row where the same four voices are singing (although with some amazing, fun harmonies), my ear starts to go numb and it all begins to sound the same. But for fans of such music, I march on. There's "Morphee" which is sung in French (Canadian, remember?) and the zany brothers of the Andrew-sisters feel of "Darlington Darling", both without instruments, and the very fun take off on the Spiderman theme song from the kids cartoon. But since eleven of the fifteen songs have very sparse instrumentation and the rest are vocal-rich a cappella spectaculars, this isn't enough to save the album for me. Unless such vocal showboating is your cup-o-tea, there are better albums to discover this great band than Bargainville.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, November 2000.