Illustrated Bird, the recent release from The Hangabouts, initially comes across as a collection of easy-going power pop songs, but songwriters guitarist-vocalist John Lowry and vocalist-bassist Gregory Addington have embedded complicated emotions beneath the fetching melodies and intricate harmonies. The mood on these 13 portraits of personal relationships can be wistful or even a bit scary, but there’s also a undercurrent of humor running throughout the album. Incorporating a number of musicians, The Hangabouts craft arrangements that draw from mid 1960s pop, along with several other sources.
On “Roman Forum,” the setting is a real life, family-owned restaurant in which Lowry and Addington drop a cast of deftly and humorously drawn characters. The quick rhymes and Addington’s vocal style immediately bring Fountains Of Wayne to mind; an obvious influence that also turns up on the energetic “I’ll Get Over It” and the acoustic “Missing In Action.” On “She Hates You,” a guy’s blunt assessment of his buddy’s relationship is set to a delicate tune, and given a final ironic sting with the revelation that he’s stealing the girlfriend.
“I Wonder Why” sports Beach Boys style harmonizing, along with exotic instrumentation that includes ukulele, flute, and percussion. The only problem with the psychedelic “Right On Catherine” is that it’s too short, while “November” is a fun love song embellished with some good-time piano playing. Illustrated Bird ends with “Go To Sleep,” a pretty lullabye with a hint of creepiness to it.