Here’s my new rule for whether I can enjoy all these indie-rock electro side projects: Is the finished product more entertaining than going over to said indie rockers’ dingy studio apartments (mother’s basements, storage units, etc.) and programming the same music into their equipment myself? For the Headphones’ self-titled debut, the answer is “ehhh . . . maybe half the time.” “Wise Blood,” for instance, is not much of a song, but you gotta love how they bailed it out with the unlistenable drone that shrieks over the top. Funny to listen to once—not so funny to sit through during recording and mastering. I’m on board with that one.
“Gas and Matches,” on the other hand, kicks off the CD with beats so bad I thought I was listening to Christian rock—and in a way I was, as the three Headphones, including Pedro the Lion leader David Bazan, work the field’s fringe. Remember, folks, if you’ve got both a live drummer and a synth handy, there’s no groovy reason for the snare to hit on one and three. Next song “Shit Talker” more than atones, though: Imagine a molasses funk beat backing up a beautiful Handel aria about gossip folks whose lyrical climax wails out, “Aw shit, man!” Kind of thing you might cook up over some laughs in Mom’s basement.