Indie Rock is a ‘genre’ that has built quite a reputation in recent years; seen as those artists/bands that aim for a more underground and less-extreme musical approach, those that can’t quite make it big even if they have the talent for it. It’s usually associated with very small labels and the band’s that have to pretty much do it themselves. With its recent explosion as a ‘popular’ term, thanks to the ever changing musical industry and the higher accessibility of the internet, many indie bands have made it big, which pretty much goes against the very definition of the genre.
Marvelous 3, fronted by critic and indie darling Butch Walker, was a pop rock band that managed to garner some success towards the late 90s. They weren’t a household name, and would never reach that status simply because they did not have a strong enough record company backing. Elektra Records would later be criticized by the charismatic front man as showing a severe ‘lack of interest’ for the band, which would later result in the band’s separation from the label in 2001.
Hey! Album, Marvelous 3s most successful album, was originally released as an indie album on the band’s own label before being picked up by Elektra Records and re-released in 1999. Lead single, ‘Freak of the Week’ was a decent upon its release, reaching #5 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart, #23 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and #39 on the Airplay/Radio & Records chart.
When somebody listens to the Hey! Album, either version, the first thing that may hit you is just how un-indie it sounds. It’s not a diverse album, it actually sounds very similar to the majority of the other pop rock bands who have experience some commercial success. This undoubtedly was the reason Elektra Records were attracted to Marvelous 3. The songs follow a similar formula, with a short intro (could be acoustic or electric, maybe a short drum beat) and then a pop-rock riff comes in and dominates the rest of the up-tempo song. Lyrically all the songs follow a verse – chorus – verse structure with the occasional pre-chorus thrown in. The album sounds safe and calculated which its biggest weakness is. At the same time everything that is done on the album is done well and better than the rest.
The lyrics are surprisingly effective, even though the subject themes (Love, Rock stars and Vampires) are rather generic and repetitive. Thanks to Walker’s lyrics, and singing, the songs are enjoyable in their simplicity and at times borderline hilarious.
‘So I called up Marie, she'd have sex for free
But for ten bucks an hour, she'd listen to me
Talk about rockstars and models on dope, and how I can't cope with this scene’
Every chorus on the album is painfully addictive and the lyrics all hit the mark. Like previously mentioned the musical compositions are not ground breaking, they follow a similar and predictable approach, but thanks to a few odd moments of diversity (an acoustic intro to ‘Every Monday’, the slow building distorted intro to ‘Until You See’), the listener at-least will never feel like he is hearing 12 versions of the same number. Also songs like the power ballad ‘Let Me Go’ and the impressive storytelling like writing of songs like ‘Indie Queen’, which centers around the surprisingly powerful story of a drug-addicted celebrity, manage to play with the listeners heart strings as well.
Hey! Album is nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s simple and that is both a blessing and a curse, since by not pushing the envelope the band does what they know best to the greatest of their abilities.