I’ve never been to Michigan. But, I imagine it’s colder than the Southern states where I grew up. If the soundtrack for Michigan living is anything like COMPs’ new record, the hilariously titled Life As A Baller, I might move there tomorrow.
COMPs is the lo-fi, bedroom pop project of melody mastermind Geoffrey C Webb. In the vein of indie rock godfathers Guided by Voices, Life As A Baller is completely melody driven. At just over 20 minutes, Life As A Baller offers a short lesson in near perfect songwriting. Webb dumps melodies into every nook and cranny of this record.
In the opening track “New Edition,” Webb directs the listener’s attention immediately to a tune that will remain stuck in their head for days. It’s a great way to begin a record, launching directly into a driving groove. The simplicity of the drum machine and power chord arrangement leaves so much empty space for an infectious melody. Complete with a perfectly balanced guitar solo, “New Edition” lets us know that this record is something truly special.
“Out of Bounds,” the next track, features a beautiful, jangly guitar line. If “New Edition” is the storm, “Out of Bounds” is the calm afterwards. Lightly soaked in chorus, the guitar work creates a dreamy atmosphere. It’s reminiscent of George Harrison’s work on Revolver, specifically on songs like “She Said She Said” or “And Your Bird Can Sing.” Webb’s vocals are likewise soaked in some combination of chorus and reverb, adding to the spaced-out feeling of this song.
The third track, “Satan,” is the highest point on the record. It’s a stunning power-pop gem: driving, frantic, and wild. The guitars are stripped of all effect besides distortion. A simple guitar lead stands out above the walls of fuzz. While “Out of Bounds” left us floating in the clouds, “Satan” brings us back to reality. Webb opens the song by singing, “I feel so soulless now.” It’s a song about giving up or giving in, and it could not be more perfectly placed on this record. Not only is Webb a masterful songwriter, but he knows how to sequence an album. Towards the middle of the album, the songs become danceable.
“Forget About It” and “Backbone” showcase another side of Webb’s songwriting. The instrumentation also becomes more complex, adding keyboards and glockenspiel to the distorted guitars and drum machines. Life As A Baller was released on Chicago “do-it-together” label Flesh And Bone Records. The label has released tapes from bands like Vasudeva, Wish List, and Greet Death. While COMPs feels right at home with their new label-mates, Webb also brings a new energy to the label. There’s a certain carefree charm that allows these COMPs songs to breathe. It’s a record you can return to over and over again; it’s just right for any occasion.
When I think of music inspired by the Beatles, it’s easy for bands like Of Montreal or The Apples in Stereo to be at the front of my mind. I forget that the Beatles were just four kids with a penchant for writing pop songs. If you’re looking to scratch the same itch, look no further than Life As A Baller. Replace the drum machine with Ringo’s lopsided drumming or George’s dabblings on sitar, and Life As A Baller could almost be retitled Revolver Part II. Webb has created one of the catchiest records of 2018 so far.
Go listen to Life As A Baller. You won’t regret it.
Order a cassette from Flesh And Bone Records here.