Chris Arduser | Hapless

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Rock: Adult Alternative Pop/Rock Pop: Beatles-pop Moods: Mood: Quirky
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by Chris Arduser

Richly orchestrated power pop that isn't afraid to ask unaswerable questions.
Genre: Rock: Adult Alternative Pop/Rock
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Drag It Out
2:42 $0.99
2. The Monster I Created
2:51 $0.99
3. Poor Suzette
3:42 $0.99
4. Put Her Out of My Misery
2:43 $0.99
5. Everything
3:56 $0.99
6. Hangman's Knot
3:48 $0.99
7. Washing My Conscience Clean
3:22 $0.99
8. Better Than You
2:58 $0.99
9. Paid for the Privilege
3:17 $0.99
10. Mid Air
3:04 $0.99
11. No Answers
4:05 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Hapless is a new collection of songs by Chris Arduser respectfully dedicated to luckless women and unfortunate men. Strewn with teen beats, growling basses, off color guitars, jangling strings, groovy guest star girl singers and more Mellotrons than you can shake a stick at!

Dire contemplations of life on earth as well as depictions of nightclub so sad and seedy no fiction was required!

All of the above and reversible cover art!

"Arduser's third release, "Hapless," is easily his best, thanks to a seamless batch of smart pop songs, high-end production values, and a wonderful mix of shiny, happy melodies that counter dark, twisted lyrics.

It's a sophisticated disc that takes what he learned on his first two solo outings - "Hostage" and "Celebrity Motorcade" - and leaps forward. The most apt comparison is to the later works of XTC, with layered arrangements, crafty writing, and a sense that each song has something new to reveal each time you hear it.

Arduser is a talented multi-instrumentalist, but he fleshes "Hapless" out with musicians like Rob Fetters and Bob Nyswonger, both of the 'dots and the Bears, and George Cunningham, another Sylvania expat living in Cincinnati. The diversity of sound they provide augments the tunes and gives the sad barfly lament of "Poor Suzette" a good hard kick and takes the avant pop of "Washing My Conscience Clean" into another realm.

The disc's strongest cut is "Everything," a soaring, uber-catchy soul-pop song that perfectly captures the frustrations of a man who just might break out of his emotional shell. But, then again, maybe he won't.

That kind of paradox is at the heart of "Hapless."
Arduser is hitting his stride, and here's hoping that he keeps at it for a long time.

- ROD LOCKWOOD/toledo blade

"Exquisite. Hook-filled pop."

- RICK BIRD/Cincinnati Post



to write a review

Jeff Boule

A Hapless Solo Bear Watches Man And Sighs
Chris Arduser is not now, nor will he ever be a household name. But I would rather keep this Chris Arduser in tact as opposed to some record label machination. I have come to know and love Deathy (as he is known in the inner circles of the Bear’s cave) through his work with Adrian Belew and the Bears, the Psychodots and later Raisins, Graveblankets and his own solo albums.

All morbid, sordid and seamy subject matter aside, Deathy can write crazy catchy pop songs to go underneath those subjects, which makes for the most interesting dichotomy in itself. But when you pair the old-school instruments Deathy consistently employs with the hard topics, in addition to some of the technical treatments done to Arduser’s articulations, you have a very unique, Mid-West bred, corn fed meets psychotic circus rejects at a New Orleans funeral.

Good times for all to be had. Goths invited to look beyond the packaging and check out the grim literary images Deathy conjures with his lyrics. He’s no dumb-bunny-death-devotee. His first album Hostage was lyrically tongue in cheek musings about relationships and, of course, the darker sides of the darkest relationships Deathy can conjure up. The follow up was an album about 1920s era filmmakers, stars, studios, scandals, etc. Highbrow stuff from “just a drummer”.

But this drummer also plays/performs (on this album at least) vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, 6 string and tenor guitars, mandolin, piano, melodica, Hammond organ, synthesizer and some bass. This is not to say he did it all by himself a la long-time-Arduser influence Todd Rundgren, but there are several songs recorded exclusively by Arduser. There are also many notable guest appearances, beginning with Bridget Otto longtime vocal contributor to several of Arduser’s projects and other usual suspects such as George Cunningham contributing guitars on some tracks, which would qualify as a Graveblankets reunion and even appearances by 50% more Bears, Rob Fetters on guitar and Bob Nyswonger on some basses. Absent was Adrian Belew as he was busy cultivating what will become the band that takes over the time and attention Belew used to pay to King Crimson, and in return I see Belew building this as the income source that King Crimson used to be. During the recording of Hapless, Belew was forming and rehearsing with his Power Trio. Robert Fripp has more or less said that King Crimson will continue after this 40th Anniversary Tour if fans behave themselves, do not insist on disrupting the experience for the others around them as well as Fripp and the band. This will not happen in today’s “I want everything for my dollar” culture. This reviewer hopes with all hope that he is incorrect,

“Drag It Out” kicks things off precisely and with boundless bounce per step. For a guy who sang not one note on the first two Bears albums, and cut his vocal teeth with Graveblankets, this drummer is most articulate and melodic when it comes to vocals. Up-front, clear, accurate melody interpretation and angelic, pristine backing and harmony vocals set this drummer apart from many drummer/vocalists. Arduser never spawned an inquiry so great as “what the hell does Sussudio mean anyway?”

“Drag It Out” squeals and bangs itself open similar to an egg breaking to reveal a chick. Arduser’s almost trademark tremolo guitars and sizzling backing vocals decorate most of these tracks, this being the set up, not the exception. A happy melody and tune give way to the lyrical follow up to Arduser’s Bears song “What’s The Good Of Knowing”. Again the aspect that the words from a loved one can soon lead to that loved one being an ex-loved one, remain a prevalent theme in Arduser’s “love-is-grim” mindset. “Is this just the urban malaise or are you tired of me?” he asks in a pre-break chorus.

What is better, dragging the wretched truth into the open or being happy under the umbrella of ignorance? I don’t know about you, but this reviewer has been in that situation, tried it both ways and neither outcome resulted in a win.

The biggest problem with this song it is so perfectly arranged, with changes and change-ups through out the 2:40 song, you don’t notice it going by so fast. But you do miss it when it’s gone.

In a quick 4-beat almost gallop tempo Arduser proclaims some of his conquest-lust by portraying a supreme-scientist-general type person in “The Monster I Created”. On the one hand he describes his army, on the other he details the monster he has created. Is the monster the army? Himself? Can’t be himself, his monster’s coming to destroy him…self, umm… One line claims they are multiple, the chorus unifies the throng by claiming it set itself free.

So it looks like we are battling a political situation, a military situation, several legal issues, utter chaos has broken out at the whim of some out of control authoritarian/governmental figure, but this wayward figure assures us in a dreamy half tempo break about midway through the song, that we will find peace…

…in Death. With Deathy Arduser, the place is a few clicks South. Hell, get it? So far we are being treated to songs with unseemly subject matter set to perfect intellipop.

A light vibrato piano and some French man expressing regrets about “Poor Suzette”. What we have here is another tale of a girl who had the self-respect slapped out of her as a young girl. Named after her father’s favorite prostitute, easy to get, all the clichés, including detailed skank-style wardrobe description, overall aesthetic standard issue make-up critiques, etc. Right from the start, the initial lyrics talk of disrobing, self-destruction and obscenity laced impairment ratings. But our sympathy is directed towards the guy Suzette has gotten to take her home. Even after falling all over the dance floor “two-fisted drunk”. You can spot some of Arduser’s vocal trepidations during that break. He also needs to watch for when the lyrics get trite. Fellow-Bear Rob Fetters adds a searing guitar solo.

The track is again, classic pop rock, clean, tight, punchy and intuitive. The eloquent bass is provided by Bob Nyswonger, guitar by Rob Fetters who blazes out one of his Strat-punishing solos at the end, and the pretty vocals by Briget Otto. Perhaps having these two Bears as well as Mike Radovsky on drums gave better musical direction capabilities to Arduser. But none of the self-produced tracks are that lacking in precision.

More of the well-crafted pop comes at you with the synth delay harshness yielding honey-sweet backing vocals on “Put Her Out Of My Misery”. Once the verse kicks in, the vocals dry up to detail the negative influences he casts over some poor gal. Arduser glorifies his own hatred right before modulating and double-timing the guitar-picking. And of course, introducing those angelic, layered backing harmonies. That he learned well from Rundgren.

Then as though you had been magically transported to the First Holy Church of Deathy, “Everything” starts off with a heavenly choir of one. It is Laura Chenault’s overdubbed vocal, with splendid reverbs to fill the temple of song, today’s sermon? Advising a love one to hang on to a relationship that is for the most part devoid of informational. With its simple country backdrop, replete with mandolin line, the song doesn’t necessarily cover new ground, but the subject matter seems appropriately misappropriated. Strange pairing of topic with musical style. That’s what makes Deathy, well Deathy!

Another strange marriage of topic and style, “Hangman’s Knot” has all the dream like accouterment, vocal whole notes, mellotron strings, all lull us into the false sense of security. The percussion line keeps moving, while the rest of the instruments seem to float above the percussion. The crux of the song is about caution and avoiding the hangman’s knot. But that knot could be anything from an actual hanging to the metaphorical. Deathy loves grim literary license.

For the casual reader or those who may not be able to figure out what my reviews are about, Chris Arduser is a prime example. Music that you haven’t heard of, music that, from a performer’s standpoint, is intelligent to listen to and replicate, and from a writer’s stand point, the lyrics are fairly intellectual. Arduser is articulate, well read, yet he professes to certain not-so-virtuous practices in his misbegotten youth. He exemplifies that perfect blend of book and street smart. The artists I review are going to have AT LEAST that in common. They will be innovative and intelligent, education-level completed notwithstanding.

Let’s cheer things up with “Washing My Conscience Clean”. This is top of the inventive pops. Jangly guitars steal the show, but also with some distortion and tremolo accents thrown in to mix it up. The lyrics detail how he is hired to detect the man of a woman’s dream. To his surprise he finds he was hired to find himself. Finding himself in the crosshairs, he decides to come clean, or at least cleanse his conscience. After the lyrics finish, this track has more business as it builds to en eerie close. This was probably thought of as a possible single, that is if Arduser’s label, Crooked Mile, run by Arduser, put any thought at all into a single. Arduser is in the position that most indie recording artists are in, they get better distribution of product as well as income when they do it themselves.

Another death knell for the majors.

But this track jams and parties out at the spacey end. The rhythm track chugs upward complete with Melodica chord strikes at the end! Neat!

Next we have my favorite track from Hapless, “Better Than You” about a dictator catapulted to royalty, who promises to relinquish his throne once the people learn to sing. Too bad the miser king’s tastes are so exclusive as he has no intention of relinquishing said crown anytime soon. Finger picked guitars start us off, and as the proclamation that Arduser is better than us, we are introduced to the full band. I just love the chorus: “Cause I’m better than you, you should know that by now, I’m better than you, and I run this town.” I am enjoying the effects that Arduser credits to co-producer Matt Hueneman and ProTools. They use various vocal effects to separate choruses from verses, bridges, special sections, etc. Hueneman does have a remarkable gift for mic placement for Arduser’s vocals. While I can hear Arduser making sure his diction is correct, the great part is I can hear Arduser making sure his diction is correct. That is the result of attentive mic placement. The whole album is so clean you can eat off it yet it has those dirty bits that make Deathy’s sound so unique.

I accept this song as my rebuttal to all those dimwits running around thinking Weezer’s “I’m The Greatest Man Alive” is written about them. There is a gentle descending break that details just how unfeeling the dictator has become. The whole song has a faint “French-Revolution-Marie-Antoinette-let-them-eat-cake” kind of feel behind it. Like you expect to see the powdered wigs.

“Paid For The Privilege” could be nominated as the divorce song of the new millennium. While it may not be exclusively about divorce, it fits. Apart from the poppiest arrangement and vocals, this is a sour song. With lines like “You took it all, love and money, but in court, you still looked stunning as the verdict came and went, you said what you never meant.” Hard to discern it from that scenario isn’t it? But for such a sour song, the backing vocals are right out of Shaun Cassidy’s “Da Doo Ron Ron”. My one sticking point for this song is it has some Deathy formula; it reminds me of the Bears song “Keep Your Own Council”, also written by Arduser. But for a sour song to get even more sour is not big challenge for Deathy, in the third verse he reminisces about hiring the hit man to remove the offending party from society, and how since the hit man’s name was never committed to memory, the Feds will have a hard time pinning this on him. Ever so cheery!

Some synth percussion noodlings introduce us to “Mid Air”. The lyrics denote a relationship left up in, well, the air. Bob Nyswonger plays a stellar bass line on this, and it seems to unify all the other instruments around it. Some more of Deathy’s tremolo guitar work punctuate this outro rocker, and then it is iced with a dose of Deathy’s flash roll drums and then the track ends with the surprise of the album, just a dead stop with minor gate. So far, everyone who has heard that ending has taken pause.

We finish our time with Deathy enjoying what is perhaps the most mature of the offerings on this album, “No Answers”. The instrumentation, the vocals, backing vocals, production, lyrics, all whip smart. While there is a faint underlying electronic drum line, midi, what-have-you, the real percussion steals the show. The lyrics address the baser issues facing this crappy planet. My mind conjures up an image of a bear, sitting on a mountainside, peering across his now polluted landscape, and wanting those same answers, why?

The guitar line is gorgeous, the song is well crafted, but then again the whole album is remarkably crafted. I hope that with releases by Ringo Starr, Chris Arduser, and other drummers of remarkable talent, we will stop automatically assuming that the drummer is the dumb guy in the band.

From what I keep hearing, that distinction is now going to bass players. *sigh*

You can try out Hapless, or if you like to get the full impact of an artists progression, you could get Arduser’s Hostage, then The Celebrity Motorcade, then Hapless. But as honesty has been one of my watchwords for online posting, I will advise you that Motorcade is not his best work of the three, so you may want to leave that for last.

In any event, get to CDBaby and go get some!!!