Zach Hill is the crazy, Animal-from-The-Muppets-on-crack drummin’ chocolate in Rob Crow’s tuneful alterna-pop peanut butter, and They Mean Us is their sonic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. That’s the theory, anyhow: Put the songsmith from Pinback and Goblin Cock (Crow) together with the drummer from Hella and Team Sleep (Hill) and enjoy that crazy fusion.
In practice, though, this short debut record is less “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” and more “You got your beef jerky in my vodka Gibson!” You can appreciate the two individual flavors, and even sort of see why someone would put them together, but it’s not something that you’re going to be buying by the fistful.
There are moments of brilliance on this album, but even they suffer from two main flaws: There aren’t enough of them, and they’re too short. The two songs where Hill and Crow best fuse their talents — opener “Black Caesar/Red Sonja” and the Built to Spill-esque “Empathy on a Stick” — play for a whopping 2:45 combined.
In the end, the Ladies sound like they’re trying to be all things to all folks, and falling into the usual trap of that situation. People who come looking for Pinback’s pop tunefulness are going to be distracted and confused by the drum fills, syncopation, and tempo shifts, and people looking for the sheer breakneck madness of Hella are going to be disappointed by the verse-chorus-verse song structures and occasional sing-along moments. Fans of Jeremy Enigk’s singing over the drum solos during old Sunny Day Real Estate concerts, however, may finally have the album they’ve been dreaming about for so very long.