After listening to their debut album for weeks, I can’t decide if Philly band Drink Up Buttercup’s name is meant to be celebratory or disturbing. (Maybe a little of both?) In any event, Born and Thrown on A Hook (Yep Roc) is a rollicking disc of smart-pop: a collection of energetically neurotic psychedelic/glam/art rock packed with stuttering circus-y keyboards (courtesy Farzad Houshiarnejad) that recall an intentionally funny ELP, rhythmic hop-scotching and bellowing choruses wrapped around sing-songy lyrics about less-than-beautiful losers.
At times, the results remind me of Duck Stab era Residents (“Mr. Pie Eyes,” “Sosey Dosy”) if that group of Brechtian performance geeks had an actual vocalist like the deceptively angelic James Harvey or an inclination to display some genuine musical chops. “Young Ladies” musically recalls Kurt Weill and John Lennon in turn, while the folksy “Lovers Play Dead” treats young love like a Romero horror film. “Pink Sunshine” acts like it could be an album track off of some '60s era band’s attempt at aping Sgt. Pepper — which may sound like a putdown, but isn’t meant to be to these ears. This is a band, after all, that isn’t afraid to quote the Archies in “Doggy Head” (great melodica sound in that ‘un!), evoke Leo Sayer or insert a brief instrumental out of some Lon Chaney silent in between tracks, than follow it with an organ/bass concoction from the Deep Purple Book of Heavy Rock Moves.
Born is all over the map, in other words: held together by Harvey’s high vocals and a sharp eye for low-class dives in high-class towns. Barrels of fun for lovers of poppish quirk — and I’m betting they just kill in a smoky Philly rock club.