Thanks to recent advances in technology, irony, and unemployment, that scrawny English major with the laptop sitting behind you in the coffeehouse may be working on a hot breakbeat, not the Great American Novel (or his résumé). Smooth with a mouse but still awkward in life, bands like Burnside Project take the “pro” out of Pro Tools, applying electronica production techniques to indie rock’s studied sloppiness.
Burnside Project is mainly Wisconsin-born, New York City-based auteur Richard Jankovich, who traded his Replacements obsession for a tech-pop itch a few years back. His schizophrenic second album,The Networks, the Circuits, the Streams, the Harmonies, is dance music for people who approach the dance floor with great trepidation. Like some of his literary heroes–including Ice Storm novelist Rick Moody, who wrote the liner notes–Jankovich is an infinite jester, burying too-clever-by-half lyrics (“You passed the test with flying colors / But can colors really fly?”) under scrappy MC breaks, ATM sound effects, and nursery-rhyme samples.
But the desperation in his skittering tracks is palpable–and winning. Complete with a tender chorus and an equally tender shoutout to indie-film shemp Philip Seymour Hoffman, “He Never Knew the Benefits of Caffeine” is a Moby jam for bipolar insomniacs; “Cue the Pulse to Begin” is frenetic funk fiddling. But the album’s best cuts are the collaborations with Mendoza Line singer/songwriter Shannon McArdle, whose twang infuses “Only Ordinary” with ecstatic regret. Proof that love hangovers sound good at any BPM.