The debut record from Bricktown’s Replacements- and Guided by Voices-inspired new rock band, The Final Hurrahs, is a number of things. First, the 17 tracks here (12 full-blown songs and five quick theme songs) work as a musical enhancement for an interactive boys clothing line called The Good Ones. The album exists because the clothing exists. But there’s more. The record is a collaboration between the two very cool companies behind The Good Ones – design firm One Lucky Guitar and Matilda Jane Clothing – and singer/songwriter Josh Hall, best known for his work in Thunderhawk. Numéro One is an experiment, a concept, a story, a party, an alternate universe where little animals wear Chuck Taylors and ride skateboards and play guitars. When I listen to Thunderhawk proper, I picture a tall, half-drunk guy with a PBR in one hand and a partially tuned guitar in the other. He wants to drink, hangout, play drums and howl. When I listen to The Final Hurrahs, I picture Stuart, a small, human-like animal of some sort who dresses like Damon Albarn. He wants to skate, laugh, rock and inspire.
Before making the record, One Lucky Guitar’s Matt Kelley created his band on paper – drawings, quotes, T-shirt designs, tour posters, ideas and a back story. The goal was to make The Good Ones not just the greatest, hippest, highest quality clothing for boys around, but to make the company a full-blown experience. An inspiration. A calling card. That said, anyone who knows Kelley even a little bit knows that he was thinking about the record before that first T-shirt was completed. I can almost picture his notes in my head – rocking, timeless, loose, fun, sweet, classic. The Replacements’ Tim album, minus the beer and sadness. Thunderhawk, minus the beer and sadness. Short, memorable, perfect songs that “cool” parents can listen to with their kids. Kelley’s goal: to someday see a member of “The Best New Band Since The Strokes” on stage for their SNL debut, Final Hurrahs tattoo on his arm. That, and to maybe win a Grammy for Best Children’s Album.
And here’s the thing about that: Numéro One is better, and certainly cooler, than most of the recent winners of said award (I checked). And, with the clothing line and beautiful packaging and website, not to mention the accessibility of the songs, the album actually seems like the kind of release that stands a chance. Everything seems just right. Perfect. But, mostly, the songs are great. Hall, whom many regard as one of the few songwriters genuinely comparable to drunken rock n’ roll gods like Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg, is the star of this show. I’m not sure how the ideas for the songs came together (Kelley clearly had input and gave direction), but in the album’s liner notes, Hall (the mellowest overachiever you’re likely to meet) is credited for writing, recording, singing and mixing all the songs. Aside from some drums here and there, he plays all the instruments, too.
What’s most impressive about Hall’s work here are the lyrics, which I’m guessing go above and beyond everything Kelley had hoped for. They’re funny, poignant, cute and oddly sweet. Not bad for a guy who, on his own records, appears to be, well, damaged and deeply complex. In a recent One Lucky Guitar post, Kelley wrote about working with Hall: “My over-arching plan was that I would get in the kitchen with the madman, and we would co-write all of the songs … but as the project progressed, I simply couldn’t keep up. The guy exhales songs.” Later Kelley gives his humble opinion on the album: “[It’s] a five-star classic. An all-time favorite. A put-it-on-repeat, where’s-the-Grammy masterpiece … “
In short, Numéro One is a rock n’ roll record full of quick, simple, memorable songs with great lyrics. An album that both kids and adults can enjoy as long as they have imaginations and haven’t already been too confused by the Gagas and the Biebers. I only wish Numéro One existed when I was first getting into music, was around to teach my cartoon-loving brain about the core of great rock n’ roll music. A record for cool kids to listen to, live with, love and connect to long before working their way through must-hears like Let It Bleed, Raw Power, Alien Lanes, Is This It? and Pleased to Meet Me. Chances are, Mom and Pop are gonna like Numéro One – a vacation from all the unbearable, cheesy, unchallenging children’s music floating around – just as much as the kiddos. And, who knows? Maybe someday they’ll pick up Hall must-haves like Gravity Wins! and Black Label Summer. And, you know, get tattoos of rock n’ roll dogs and wear Good Ones gear.
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