Written on June 8, 2008
For those who are not up to date on their Wizard Rock (WRock) knowledge, Lauren Fairweather is one half of the WRock group The Moaning Myrtles. About a year ago Lauren started writing songs outside of the Myrtles and The Devil’s Snare is her first solo album.
The first hint that the listener has that this album isn’t a typical WRock offering is that the works are credited to Lauren herself. It is tradition in the WRock community to come up with a Potter related name for your group, even if the group only has one member.
The second hint comes in the topics that are covered on the album. The typical formula for WRock songs, in fact the very definition of WRock, is songs that are about, or inspired by, the Harry Potter series. This can take the form of songs that describe scenes from the book, songs that are written as if the songwriter were part of the Potter universe, or simply songs that are about the WRock scene in general.
The Devil’s Snare though features only one song that fits squarely with in this formula. Several songs, though not all, reference the Potter series, but do so as a fan of the series, not as a member of the universe. Because of this, I’ve found myself wondering if the album should really be viewed as a WRock album, as some will be inclined to do, or simply as a general geek-centric album, more in line with artists like Jonathan Coulton. Luckily the album stands up well in both camps, but I think it is perhaps more fruitful to view it outside of the WRock scene.
One of the biggest complaints of geek-centric music is its reliance on novelty. Critics cry foul that the songs lack emotional depth or resonance in the traditional way that pop music is supposed to. Whether this criticism is fair or not, it is hard to deny that a certain sense of novelty is prevalent with in the scene. It is hard to avoid a sense of novelty when your song revolves around mad scientists or Mega Man.
Which makes Lauren’s album all the more interesting. While several songs on the album openly revolve around or reference Lauren’s love for the Potter series, they do so in a way that side steps the novelty trap that comes from making such blatant pop culture references. Instead they come off as honest autobiographical songs. The references are touch stones which allow the listener to peek inside the artist’s mind, but do not detract from the overall message. These songs will likely carry more meaning for someone who is part of the same fandoms that Lauren is, but this does not preclude others from developing a meaningful attachment to the songs.
Now this isn’t to say that the album isn’t fun. It opens with the wonderfully irreverent track I Want You To Whomp Me, a parody of the classic Cheap Trick song I Want You To Want Me. There are also songs like the Snog Song, co-written with Lena Gabrielle of the Butterbeer Experience, about the infamous Book 7 kiss between Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley. Engines Make Me Hot (Kaylee’s Song) applies the WRock formula to the Serenity/Firefly franchise to great effect. And Nerdfighterlike is a playful song which comes off as a kind of love letter to the Nerdfighter comunity. In fact it is the sense of playfullness that permeates the album that makes it such an enjoyable listen. There is weight to the songs, but Lauren’s willingness to indulge her geeky impulses keeps the album from becoming bogged down.
Another interesting divergence from typical geek rock fare is the timeliness of the language used in the songs. While most geek music has an almost nostalgic flavor to it with references to old video games or TV shows or movies or books, Lauren’s songs reference elements of the geek community as they exist and evolve today. It is to early to tell if this will result in the songs having a limited life span even though the subject matter of the songs is timeless. Or if the appeal of these songs will be limited because of the language. It is still refreshing to hear songs though that are so current. And if one of the measures of a good songwriter is having other people covering your songs, Lauren is off to a pretty good start.
Over all the album is a little raw in places in the same sense that a lot of debut albums are. There is that feeling that she is still fine tuning her own voice as a songwriter and learning the craft, but the album holds a lot of promise. After a couple of listens one is left with the impression that if she decides to keep working at it, Lauren could one day be an influential talent with in the geek culture movement. Whether you buy the album or not, whether you like the songs or not, I highly recommend keeping an ear out for this artist in the future. Devil’s Snare is only her first tentative step into the world of songwriting. I have a pretty good hunch that her best work is still ahead of her and that it will be amazing.
Lauren performing I’m Going to Hogwarts: