Taking one look at Ron Fountenberry, with his fitted dark denim jacket, striped knit scarf, thick-rimmed glasses protecting “really deep” thoughts and a short, perfectly picked, kinked and twisted afro, you might quickly peg the guy as another hip-cute-sensitive-Casio-toting-Brooklyn-bedroom-laptop-sound-collagist. He could pass for a cast member of Rent, with a look that sets a new standard in pretentious “bohemian” chic, as he appears to be regaining his balance after hopping off the el with a glance that’s contemplative, yet je ne sais quoi; introspective, yet faraway. The rough city lights buzz behind him and he pretends that they hurt his eyes, but in his mind, he’s repeating over and over, “I look so cool. I am so cool,” tucking his Metro card into the back pocket of his size-too-small thrift-store work pants.
But this swift synopsis couldn’t be further from the truth.
For one, the sports fanatic has a slight obsession with TV. “I mean, television is like my best friend; if I could date television, I probably would.” Before concentrating his efforts on music, Fountenberry was a substitute teacher. He’s more unpretentious than meat. And he’s from San Diego, which of course makes the scarf a bit questionable, but no one’s gonna care about any of this once they hear the man get his freak on.
Electric Pocket Radio opens like you might expect, with an obscure retro-futurist refurbished cover of the Dutch New Wave group, Gruppo Sportivo’s “Beep Beep Love.”
But immediately after and throughout the rest of the disc, he practices nonstop gear shifting. Track two features a la-la-la-la-la crackled sample backdrop with cuddly, silly, warm-and-fuzzy romantics (and whistling too!). Then it jolts into third with the aptly titled “Anthem.” With a wall of wailed guitar, misty-eyed bass, drum buildup and whoo-whoo-whee-ohhh keyboards, it’s almost too anthemic, as if it already exists somewhere, maybe on a Fountains of Wayne album or perhaps as the lead-in/fade-out music of a WB sitcom; but is it ever catchy.
Other highlights include a rainy day jazz-electro-funk instrumental hybrid, a match-up between Pet Sounds harmonies and Roni Size-esque breakbeats, a popified music-box waltz, snippets from a French instructional 45 and even hints of British psychedelia.
Fountenberry makes cut-and-paste fun again. He collages with the reckless abandon of a kindergartner recently granted scissors privileges. It’s hard to imagine another album with so many curveballs lobbed at the listener, while maintaining an almost gratuitous hookiness. Each song is so unbelievably different, but it flows like a well-thought-out mixtape.
Those who were blown away by Beck’s Midnite Vultures, will probably get the same kind of kick out of Electric Pocket Radio. It probably won’t get as much attention, but it’s just as catchy. It also calls to mind Arling and Cameron’s style of mixing electro beats and sampling with instruments and feathered vocals.
Ever adventurous, Electric Pocket Radio solidifies the “incredible” claim. Fountenberry’s quick to insist that he didn’t name the project The Incredible Moses Leroy because he thought he was incredible. It was inspired by his great-grandfather, Moses Leroy, a Texas union leader and civil rights activist. The “incredible” part also has to do with his love of comic book hero names.
He’s so cool.
The Incredible Moses Leroy performs Tuesday, July 17 at the Shelter (in the basement of St. Andrew’s).
Melissa Giannini is the Metro Times staff music writer. E-mail her at email@example.com.