Friday, January 16, 2009

21st Century Gypsy Soul

ME  TALK  PRETTY


Members: “Julia” [real name Uliana] Preotu on vocals, James Kluz on drums, Leon Lyazidi on guitars, Nate Meng on bass

 
 I didn't start out wanting to like this group as much as I do. Internal conversation:

 “It's just pop stuff - romance/lovelife/soap-opera subject matter. Typical pop. What's the big deal?”

 “Is being in love ever really shallow? It's as deep as the individuals involved. And you do like some love songs. Besides, they're fresh in how they do – I swear I think I heard a new riff or two. And the dynamics is good, not just loud O/D and not just soft and smooth till it's lame.”

 “Yeah okay two points. Or three. But isn't some of it a little too predictable, going from delicate modulation to steady shouting, then back through the cycle again? And since when do you like shouting?”

 “One point, but it's Artistic shouting done by a cute chick and not aimed at me like a weapon. So I'm good with that. Actually I might be becoming addicted to hearing her.”

 “Whaddya mean like a weapon?”

 “Like when someone is in your face yelling AT you and threatening your life and limb because they blame you for their problems and you never even met them. This is exploring feelings about a relationship and it's not even about me unless I want it to be.”

 “Like a lot of hip-hop/rap. You know that sounds racist.”

 “Everything sounds racist if you're thinking that way. My black neighbors and I get along at least as well as the white ones. I just have no desire, and no wish to develop a desire, to look at album covers with big black guys glaring at me and then pay to hear them yell epithets at me. If I wanted that I could go down the street and beat on somebody's door at 3 AM. I hear this young lady do what I consider infinitely more musical and do delicate lines and then strong lines then other stuff and it makes me happy. So I'm gonna play it again.”

 “You're incorrigible.”

 “Absolutely. And I find this band very encorriging, including about the state of original music today.”

 Try this: Look up their MySpace and PureVolume pages and have a listen. 

 Now I'm going to try again: “Me Talk Pretty” is an Indie group based in New York. MySpace says “unsigned” but they're on their second EP or album, depending on your definition (7 on the first one, 5 on the other). In other words, they're not sitting around waiting for some giant label to hand them money and tell them what to play. They're getting on with putting their creations in people's ears. The MySpace page has links to several indie outlets (hey, maybe I should start one and call it that). And the studio names on the current album are all recognizable rockstars in their fields: Arun Venkatesh producing, additional programming by Rhys Fulber, Mike Plotnikoff mixing. And hey, Warped Tour 2008! Not shabby at all.
 BTW, my son pointed out that there's a famous wedding picture of Elvis and Priscilla touching tongue tips – just like the two x-ray people on the cover of the current CD, “Ruby” (done in 2007). So the album is like an x-ray pic set of love/desire relationships? The 2005 “Ana” has different artwork and a different approach, more experimental. PureVolume lets you select groups of tunes by the album they're from, so you can distinguish the timing of the work you're listening to.

 The group has been together with the present lineup for three or four years and they're tight, the vocals by “Julia” are often strident but rarely strained, and they can indeed kick it out powerfully or with simple elegance as needed. It has been commented that Julia's voice is sometimes overshadowing the rest of the band. Probably true – but I truly like it that way, maybe 'cause I get into lyrics and want to hear them. And let's face it, spotlighting the attractive female front/singer is a formula that has worked for a host of highly regarded successful bands. Turn off ego, turn on the feeling, play your heart out behind the talented young lady singing who looks a lot better in a halter top than you do. It works. Especially when she's as earnest as this one.

 “Julia” is actually Uliana Preotu, 26, a genuine Gypsy from Romania. I think I see the source of her flair for dramatic gestures and keeping the listener entertained in the best sense of the term. If you check out the videos posted on their MySpace and PureVolume pages you can catch her and the band in the minute details of the Warped Tour and her narration, often on-camera, keeps the pace and the interest moving.

 About the material: It's good, but the band would still probably make you like it even if it were mediocre or if they were doing covers. I was reminded how Janis Joplin took the old standard “Summertime” and cranked it into her own energy and it came out completely different than when anybody else did it. MTP's tunes are good, but the band's tightly done inventive licks and Uliana's dynamic treatment of the hook-y lyrics combine for a compelling set of tunes that grows on you, bigger than the sum of its parts.

  Here's where:

 www.metalkpretty.com
 Will be a standalone site someday, but right now it simply redirects to:
 http://www.myspace.com/metalkpretty

 http://www.purevolume.com/metalkpretty

 http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/music/artist/card/0,,3530008,00.html

  In case you're not familiar with ArtistDirect, it's newsy, a lot of varied content, with a base of album info. But I can't order the MTP albums there.
“Ana” is on Amazon.com.


  Uliana's page:
  www.myspace.com/stayfragile

  And the guys:
  www.myspace.com/jameskluz

  www.myspace.com/leonlyazidi

  www.myspace.com/natemeng

 “So after all that, did it sound too gushy?”

 “Completely. Like a Sunday Supplement interview PR piece. Like so-and-so is even prettier and nicer in person kinda crap.”

 “Sorry. But I'm not taking anything back. This is really good stuff, very – involving.”

 “They're not Lacuna Coil.”

 “No, they're Me Talk Pretty. And I bet you thought of them because MTP has the Big Enveloping Experience thing going on. Not Lacuna Coil's, their own Experience.”

 “They're not experienced enough to have experience.”

 “The quality of experience is not always dependent on its length – it depends on how smart you are. And in music for example how talented in what you're doing.”

 “Whatever. I'm going to bed now. Goodnight already.”

 And with that, Me Myself and I went to bed.

 G'night.


  J

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