Jukebox

Midget

Radar / Sire Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/05/1999

At last, I have an idea of what the Partridge Family would have sounded like had they been British and raised in the '90s.

If you're too young to understand the Partridge Family reference (or, like myself, you've undergone years of therapy to try and block those memories), then you may wish to see the British trio Midget as Hanson without the blond mops of hair, or as a happy-go-lucky version of The Ramones. In either case, their album Jukebox has a few songs which make the listener sit up and take notice, but not nearly enough of those tracks to make this album noteworthy.

The group - Richard Gombault, Andy Hawkins and Lee Major - do show signs of knowing how to write a decent pop song, though I'm not quite certain who their target market is supposed to be. On one side, I can see them snaring listeners of their own age group (that is, early twenties) with songs like "Invisible Balloon" (which is the first single) and "Welcome Home Jellybean". But then, you hear songs that could easily fit the "Austin Powers" style of music, like "The Day Of Your Life" - a song I'm positive I'll end up hearing in an insurance commercial one of these days - and snare the older adults in need of another "flashback".my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The greatest weakness Midget has is that they're just too cute and clever for their own damn good. Tracks like "Ben Wants To Be A Secret Agent" and "Kylie And Jason" are so loaded with pop sugar that it could put someone into a diabetic coma. There's not enough of the edge in songs like these that you can hear in tracks like "Invisible Balloon" - and that's a shame.

As songwriters, Midget show they still have some room to grow - no pun intended. Tracks like "Optimism" and "The One Who Should Save Me" all show some glimmers of promise, but they did need another coat of paint or two before being recorded. Still, that's not an unforgivable sin, and is one that is easily remedied through time on the road and time together.

Jukebox is also a record that I found it hard to concentrate on in one sitting. Like many discs I've heard in recent weeks, this is one that you just can't slap on as background music while you're working; if you do, before you know it, the disc is over, and you'll be hard-pressed to remember one song off it. Trouble is, it's not the easiest disc to listen to; I found myself needing a break around the halfway point. This was the nice thing about vinyl; it had its own built-in intermission.

Despite some of the negative things I've said, Jukebox is an album that holds out the promise of better things to come from Midget. What I think they need to do is to develop a little more of an edge to their songs, or to at least decide whether they want to be a light pop or an alternative band. Otherwise, they're going to fall into the same trap that Redd Kross did around the time of Third Eye: they'll constantly try to put two records' worth of style on one disc, something that just doesn't work well.

Jukebox shows that Midget is a group with potential, especially if their songwriting tightens up a bit. Given time, Midget could be a good alternative rock outfit... or they could be a respectable pop group. All they have to do is decide what they want to do with their lives.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Radar / Sire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.