"Automatic Fun"

(Self-Released 2004)Bobbleheads - Automatic Fun

"Automatic Fun," the Bobbleheads' debut LP, contains fourteen tracks of music so ridiculously sunny and happy, one listen is enough to provide 100% of your daily vitamins C and D (a fact overtly advertised by its cover, which depicts a smiley face inside what looks like a glob of spilt orange juice). The opening cut, "#37 Bus" strums along to upbeat, jazzy chords reminiscent of Chicago's lazy-summer classic "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is", while lyrics like "everyone is standing still / except for me I'm dancing" are delivered in shiny-happy vocal harmonies lifted straight from a mid-60s Turtles record. "Denver", the second track, carries on in the same jolly mode, offering self-esteem-boosting affirmations such as "I know what you're trying to be / And you're already that to me" over a sparkling rock backdrop that sounds like R.E.M. on a double dose of prozac (or a less cloying Rembrandts). By the time you get to the skipping-and-hopping, Beatle-esque bopper "The Possibility Song" you can't help but wonder whether you're listening to a pop record or a power-of-positive-thinking tape.

You'd have to be the world's biggest curmudgeon (which I'm not) to say anything hateful about the Bobbleheads' relentlessly cheerful music. This is a band without the slightest shadow of a dark side. Even in the one instance where they dabble in minor chords (on "Again"), it's done in the service of a don't-give-up-hope lyric. While I don't have any of their records on hand to do a comparison, I doubt even the Barenaked Ladies or Presidents of the United States come near the Bobbleheads on the zippity-doo-dah scale.

Now, while I'm not about to say anything hateful about "Automatic Fun," that didn't mean letting the Bobbleheads off with a wholly uncritical review. My one gripe is that "Automatic Fun" is an album that could just as easily have been recorded in 1991 as 2004 -- it doesn't seem the band has been influenced by anything since the last 10,000 Maniacs or Crash Test Dummies album. That, plus the fact that there's only so much sunshine one can take before the skin starts to blister.

But don't listen to me. In the end, you're far better off taking your cues from the Bobbleheads when they ask - in the title of "Automatic Fun"'s closing track - "Why not smile?"


buy it!