Motivation and Water Tower Grammar

Thursday, October 11, 2001

How do you describe a band who says its influences are XTC and Richard Davies when it's clear to you that they sound more like Guided by Voices and Yo La Tengo? Here's what I've said to everyone who's asked: "It's what the Magnetic Fields would sound like if they were an Elephant 6 band."

Clearly, this band also would like to be from New Zealand. But they're from Minneapolis. So if you find youself listening to this record and waiting for the rock to begin, you will be disappointed.

If, on the other hand, you’re expecting 44 lo-fi pop songs that rarely clock in at more than two minutes yet transcend their length, Work of Saws' debut record is for you.

This sprawling CD ranges from acoustic instrumentals to show tunes to Pet Sounds harmonies, offering weird pop ditties that recall both Olivia Tremor Control and Quasi.

Songwriter Brock Davis makes poetry out of weird juxtapositions in his tales of death, friendship and silliness. This should be apparent from the album's title and songs like "Reading Material and the Silence of Cement," "Hopeful Missiles," "Smaller Ink on Maps," "Baritone Astronaut Quartet," "I, Son of Math," "Crown State Rhino" and "Buttercup, You're a Canyon."

While the titles and lengths might strike you as throwaways, the songs are actually poignant more often than not. The catchy "Kenny Rogers was Lonely" is preoccupied not with the irony of a has-been but with mall life.

To quote, at random, from, uh, "Losing Vertical Hold:"

Never was I one to sit here alone
The rain will rust my ear to the phone
I think I think you’re making a home out of me.
Sure I’m losing veritcal hold
A sharpened smile will never grow old
I think I think you’re making a home out of me.

There's certainly the burden of consistency on any artist who puts out an album with this many songs on it. There’s also a burden of quality on artists who insist on writing songs that by many standards are no longer than a chorus or a bridge.

The burden is mostly - but not wholly - met. Only a couple songs are throwaways, but others seem to begin promisingly but come to an end after a mere minute. But given the band's claim that they selected 44 songs from hundreds the prolific Davis has written, the style is an art form I'm willing to allow. Plenty of non-album tracks are on their Web site for download!

If only... among Davis's stable of musicians is one singer with a lisp, which is ever so distracting at the quieter moments during the songs on which he sings.

Rating: A- (If you think "Her Majesty" is the best song on Abbey Road, run, don't walk...)

Reviewed by Crispin Havernill
The Hills Have Eyes 2

Hostel Part II

Six Degrees



Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip


The Hills Have Eyes

Love Monkey

Out of Practice

Head Cases

Crunchwrap Supreme

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Batman Begins

Garden State


13 Going On 30



Kill Bill, Vol. 2

Line of Fire

We Shall All Be Healed

Happy Family

Arrested Development

Love Actually

A Minute with Stan Hooper


Karen Sisco

Stop All the World Now

Cold Case



Joan of Arcadia



Lost In Translation

House of 1000 Corpses

Bubba Ho-Tep

Darkness Falls

Pirates of the Caribbean

The Amazing Race

Treasure Island



To Hit Armor Class Zero

Without A Trace

8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter

Life With Bonnie

Jalapeño Cheeseburger

The Mothman Prophecies

Happy Campers

The Man Who Wasn't There

Kiss of the Dragon

Josie & the Pussycats

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Dr. Pepper

Know By Heart

Waking Life


Thirteen Ghosts

Earthlink presents Chang and Eng

New York and Country Bar


Motivation and Water Tower Grammar

Crossing Philly

Makeout Club


The Gap

The Abolition of Work

3000 Miles to Graceland



The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Diesel Sweeties

The Cold Six Thousand

The Grilled Stuft Burrito (Rebuttal)

60 Second Wipeout

The Patriot

Grilled Stuft Burrito



Frankenfinger E.P.

One Force Down


Both Our Secrets

Happy Birthday Captain Columbus!

Fight Club

Whatever It Takes


That Skinny Motherfucker with the High Voice?

Joe Dirt

The Veggie Whopper

Taco Bell Nachos


Godzilla vs. Monster Zero

The Terror of Mechagodzilla

To The Center


American Psycho

The Del Shredder

What Lies Beneath

The Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Bring It On

Chill Factor

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars

Bad Company

The Blair Witch Project

Hyacinths and Thistles

Lake of Dracula

We'll Have a Time

Home Depot

Snow Day

The Virgin Suicides