w/the Mendoza Line, Sunshine Fix, Natural History
Tues Sept 28, Crocodile, 8 pm, $8.
If it's true that sad songs say so much, conventional wisdom would have it that sadder songs say even more.
At least that's the case with Saturday Looks Good to Me. Masterminded by Fred Thomas and including contributions from upward of 70 musicians since its 1999 inception, the Detroit retro-pop collective has evolved into a dream come true for every sad sap with a four-track recorder and old Motown fetish. After all, on albums like 2002's All Your Summer Songs and the new Every Night (Polyvinyl), they've practically perfected the art of turning heartbreak into the sort of deceptively sweet, '60s-inspired songs that'd impress even Barry Gordy.
"The joke is that all the music is super happy, upbeat pop, and all the lyrics are either super mean or super depressed," says Thomas, who not only writes the songs but also produces, shares vocal duties with a rotating cast of leading ladies, and plays everything from electric guitar to glockenspiel. "This album reaches to be more lyrically direct and honest, less fluffy and dreamy than past songs. But [SLGTM songs have] all been a bit depressing if you listen closely."
Still, little in the group's past seems as emotionally desperate--and musically superb--as Every Night. Throughout, Thomas dissects matters of the heart and seems to uncover nothing but justification for a life of solitude: Love is unrequited or, worse, disrespected in the wistful pop laments "The Girl's Distracted" and "All Over Town," while "When the Party Ends" poignantly sums up the misery that ensues when relationships inevitably go south. "There isn't any doctor or a medicine," Thomas sings, "that's gonna make you feel less insignificant."
According to Thomas, letting it all out in a catchy, DIY pop song can help though.
"I never think of [the songs] as too sad, but maybe that shows you where my head is at," he says, laughing. "I truly believe, however, that there's hope behind every sad time or seemingly unbeatable obstacle. I try to express that more than focus on how difficult things can be. Clouds are still part of the sky, you know?"