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Ladybirds co-creators Teeter Sperber (Ley Royal Scam) and Tyler Pursel (Gym Class Heroes) throw the word around with mantra-like sincerity, pointing out that they’ve happily likened their music to a slew of pop artists — Madonna, Hilary Duff and the B52s — that’d send most indie artists screaming to a high-priced therapist.
On the band’s freshman full length, “Regional Community Theater,” the Ladybirds twosome prove just how serious they are.
Separated by at least three major mountain ranges (the Cascades, Rockies and Appalachians), a few thousand miles of farmland and a three-hour time difference (Sperber on the West Coast and Pursel on the East Coast), “Regional Community Theater” was primarily constructed long distance, with final touches provided during a brief January session in a Pennsylvania basement recording studio. Refreshingly, there are no artificial production cues, redubs or slick mastering trickery; “Regional Community Theater” is simply the musical byproduct of two like-minded visionaries out to change the world one grin at a time.
Backed by high-rising synthetic swells and the pitter patter of bouncing drum machine licks, Ladybirds bat around an 11-song repertoire of electro-dance poppers that are meant to do just that.
Sperber kicks off the disc with “Slice Our Hands (We Are Blood Sisters)”: “Always we’ll be searching for something beautiful / something perfect.” She nearly finds it here, skillfully dripping her sugary register over Pursel’s 8-bit score.
Similarly, on “Brown and Red Divide,” the band’s first single, Sperber’s characteristic chirpy, cute-as-can-be, teenie-bop warble lilts along lackadaisically, penetrating the senses with its confectionery sweetness. Can you taste it? The disc’s happiest moments elicit visions of warm summer nights, barbecues and pina coladas — no band’s ever taken fun so seriously.
Even Ladybirds is prone to the austere. “Andy Lex” takes a dip into the doldrums, dropping the group’s generally cheerful musical disposition for an orchestra of ominous bells and strings. Mish-mashed against the Pre-Teen Chorus’ powerfully unified refrain, Ladybirds builds a stirring audio finale; mark it as one of the disc’s most memorable moments.
But Ladybirds makes certain the sadness is short lived, instantly rolling into the disc’s more upbeat midsection. On the duet, “Maxim and the Headphone Life,” Sperber raps: “Let’s just put this fight in a bottle for a day when this story’s easier to follow.” Max Bemis (Say Anything), who doubles up with a handful of guest appearances, tosses back: “Silence your voice forever and live a helpful life.” Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids), Justin Johnson (The Danger O’s) and Neil Sabatino (Fairmont) also take contribution honors on the album.
Particularly notable is Pryor’s backing vox on “Cooper, Thanks for the Birds.” The disc’s most conventional song, it smacks of The Get Up Kids sentimentality and tone. “Tear your photos off your walls / because I’m not coming home / you can bleed yourself dry/ the worse is yet to come / you won’t let me stay / but I won’t let you go away.” The ethereal quality of Pryor’s crisp harmonies are distinctively his own, providing the biggest stylistic departure on “Regional Community Theater” — just what Sperber and Pursel had in mind when they contracted the collaborators to help complete the album earlier this year.
Awash in unabashed bravado, the Ladybirds twosome aren’t afraid to acknowledge their contributors, or influences:“We’re like a Cyndi Lauper superfan meets a cupcake-pop version of the Postal Service — on diet pills...”
Postal Service? Hints of Jimmy Tamborello’s Nintendo-esque bleeps and bloops are present. Cyndi Lauper? You won’t find the Ladybirds sporting crimped hair, fishnet stockings or neon mini-skirts, but Lauper’s infectious sunny-day demeanor is palpably influential.
Despite the stereotypes, Sperber and Pursel are pleased to fit the bill, aware that during the CD’s nearly 40-minute runtime, there’s plenty of candy-coated goodness to go around.
Regional Community Theater” hits stores this fall. In the meantime, it’s good to know there’s still a band out there making music meant to make you smile — at least for a little while.
For more information about Ladybirds, visit: http://www.myspace.com/weareladybirds.