Denver’s own Inactivists remind me of a certain genre of New Orleans music made by punks who love Tom Waits and live in a city full of working jazz musicians who get off their gigs at midnight and proceed to drown their sorrows in whiskey and outlandish music. Bands like this perfected a combination of lounge music with unusual instruments–electric ukulele, anyone?–and ridiculous song subjects–fantastic chair?
The Inactivists’ schtick could get old easily if it were all “Fantastic Chair” and “Won’cha Hit Me In the Face?” but it’s got straighter “love” songs, like “The Girl on the Bus,” which features the lyric “Are you an out-of-your-mind/fashion genius/or are you blind?” but nevertheless is a fairly cute ode to the oddly dressed girl next door. Flashes of ska rhythms show up between songs reminiscent of Tom Waits at his weirdest, and the whole picture together has a vibe almost like that of They Might Be Giants, while sounding almost nothing like them.
The Inactivists are certainly eclectic, and one can’t knock their creative musical arrangements. Their songs will make you giggle for sure, even if 15 tracks of them get a little grating. They also win the award for the cutest album cover I’ve ever seen, hands down–a huge-eyed, sad-looking little cartoon rooster.