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Monday, April 23, 2007

Boddicker: "Big Lionhearted and the Gallant Man"

When I was a kid, my mother and father used to take us on vacation a lot. However, while other kids were vacationing at Disney World or California, my family almost always went about an hour north of where we lived to visit my grandparents at their farm. It was cool, but really, I'd much rather be taking a "real" vacation. My grandfather always had farm dogs that would help him in his daily work, or just hang out with him and keep him company as he was riding in his tractor. However, I soon noticed that every time we visited the farm, my grandfather would always have a new dog, and this perplexed me. It seemed that his dogs were prone to run away, and for the life of me, I could never figure out why. Then one day I came across some evidence that I felt would greatly explain my grandfather's runaway dog problem. I witnessed my grandfather kicking his dog. Surely this animal abuse was the answer to the question that had long perplexed me. I don't remember why my grandfather was kicking his dog, but I do remember the sound it made. It sounded a lot like Caleb Boddicker's singing.

Caleb Boddicker, here known just as Boddicker, is a 20-year-old male from Mississippi. When he was just 16-years-old he produced a 22-track demo in his bedroom and proceeded to sell over a thousand copies of it. This caught the attention of several people in the music industry, including (allegedly) Issac Brock of Modest Mouse. The rest is history. But one question still remains unanswered to me. Who the hell bought this crap?

The album begins with "Giant," a short intro into the nonsense that will soon follow. "Interstate 55," one of the strongest tracks on the album, begins with a simplistic acoustic guitar riff and brief organ appearances. Caleb takes his vocals a little easy at the start, but by the time he gets into the song he's singing so loudly, so badly, that any hint of vocal talent gets thrown out the window. The lyrics here are confusing, to be sure, but at the same time they're some of the best on the album. Take for example, "Well there ain't no McDonald's yet in the woods and the Lutheran Adventist Church can be hard to find." It makes little sense taken out of context, but makes even less when you consider that the majority of the song is sung about a "Missouri Dinosaur."

The album's most flagrant offense is Caleb's insistence on shelving actual singing for what can only be described as yelping, howling, barking, or any other sound you might expect a dog in immense pain to make. "When I Go Out" is a prime example of how an otherwise decent song is slaughtered by Boddicker's inability to carry a tune. Here, Brian Deck's talents as a producer shines, but not much else. The strongest track on the album, "Pretty Baby (Part I),"would be the weakest on any other album by any other artist. It's essentially 5 minutes of Boddicker repeating "You're my sweet pretty baby and I love you so much. I want to t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-touch" to no end. It's catchy in it's simplicity, but at the same time, it's a song that a 10-year-old could write. But a 10-year-old could probably perform it better.

The album is filled from beginning to end with disappointment. I've listened to the album multiple times for the sake of reviewing it, but honestly if anyone manages to listen to this entire album without skipping a track or taking a break I'd be shocked. You may make it most of the way through, but once you get to "Bon Vivant" you're pretty much going to give up on it. "Bon Vivant" is the single worst song I have ever heard in my entire life. It makes you wonder, "Who listens to this and thinks 'Dang, that is awesome'?" At his absolute best, Boddicker sounds like a poor man's version of Daniel Johnston or Alec Ounsworth, but a direct comparison to either of those artists would be an injustice beyond compare.

When I first put Boddicker's "Big Lionhearted and the Gallant Man" into my CD player, I was pretty excited. I was familiar with Brian Deck's previous works with Modest Mouse and Iron and Wine, and had high hopes that Boddicker would be the "next big thing." Even as I listened through the album the first time, I was holding out for the greatness that I thought would surely be revealed as the album progressed. What I got, however, was an extreme disappointment in Boddicker and a dismal new outlook on the music world. "Big Lionhearted and the Gallant Man" is the single worst album I've ever tortured my ears with. It is unbearably disappointing; a thousand times worse than thinking you're vacationing in Disney World, only to find out that you're going to your grandparent's farm.

Recommended to no one. Do not support this garbage.

Key Tracks:
1. "Interstate 55"
2. "Pretty Baby (Part I)"
3. "First We Store Up"

1 out of 10 Stars

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