There is certain warmness to Telling on Trixie’s Ugly, Broke & Sober. It could be the idea that the record’s production was aided by the fiscal and spiritual support of the New York band’s fanbase. Or it could be that the band simply feels harmless, often to their disadvantage, and quite easy-to-digest.
The formation of Ugly, Broke & Sober was a truly democratic rock experience. The band’s fan-supported website, A Band With a Plan, aided and abetted the group in sliding together funds and creative impulses to getting their second record off of the ground.
“It was much more than just a ‘give us your money’ sort of thing,” says vocalist Derek Nicoletto of the process. “Some people donated and were just pleased to help out. But others weighed in on every single decision on making the album…over eighty people from five different continents participated!”
As exciting and innovative the process may have been, Telling on Trixie seems a band unconvinced of its own identity. The record, unhappily, lacks an inner identity. As such, the songs are difficult to connect to on a deeper level and lack a certain something. Ugly, Broke & Sober often feels like paint-by-numbers pop rock.
The record’s most stirring track is the first one, “Shooting in 60.” It’s a dynamic rock tune, with Nicoletto’s vocals reaching anthemic levels. The melody is agreeable, the guitar is strong, and the song has a certain sort of boastfulness that one hopes permeates the entire record.
Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there with rare exceptions.
Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You” is remade and seems an awkward choice. Some might like the throwback 80s sound and Nicoletto’s vocals do their part, but I kept waiting for the band to take the update somewhere more interesting. The banal arrangement almost undermines Nicoletto’s singing.
“Eden (Take a Bite)” sounds like so many of those Christian rock tunes I was uneasily brought up with. The pop-rock guitar, camouflaged as something far more important, sputters through the tune. For some, numbers like this might help in the search for something greater. From my vantage point, however, the tedious song construction was too commonplace to be memorable.
I want to be clear about something: Telling on Trixie is comprised of some very gifted musicians with a lot of potential. Their abilities and passion for music are without question. But at some point and time, worn-out tune structures and everyday melodies take their toll and Ugly, Broke & Sober remains a very conventional, unremarkable record. Fans will love it, but these so-so songs will do little to win any new ones.