Reggie and the Full Effect – No Country for Old Musicians

No Country for Old Musicians
James Dewees revives his quasi-solo project, laying off the dark subject matter of its last couple records and returning to the outright silliness of its first few.

Released Nov. 19th on Pure Noise Records

It’s been over 5 years since the last Reggie and the Full Effect album (2008’s Last Stop: Crappy Town). In that time, James Dewees has kept busy with The Get Up Kids reunion and joining My Chemical Romance as their touring keyboardist. It seemed he’d retired the Reggie project (a 2008 tour was billed as a fairwell), and indeed No Country for Old Musicians likely wouldn’t exist except for a successful Kickstarter campaign he launched to see if there was interest in another album.

The last two Reggie albums dealt with some moody, serious stuff: 2005’s Songs Not to Get Married To was colored by his divorce, while Last Stop: Crappy Town was entirely about his drug addiction and rehab. By contrast, No Country for Old Musicians is a return to the out-and-out silliness that marked the project’s first three records. It features the return of Dewees’ Finnish death metal alter ego Common Denominator (appearing on “DMV” and the unlisted “Danke Shane”) as well as a new character, Floopy Disc-0 (appearing on “Who Needs Another Drank?”). After the humorless and character-free Crappy Town, such lightheartedness feels refreshing.

A number of guest stars pop up on this album, including The Get Up Kids’ Matt Pryor, Coalesce’s Sean Ingram, My Chemical Romance’s Ray Toro, Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara, and Allison Weiss. The most dominant guest, however, is MCR’s Frank Iero. Dewees and Iero have something of a bromance going on, having collaborated in the bands Leathermouth and Death Spells in addition to Dewees’ time touring with MCR. There’s an obvious rubbing-off effect going on here, as “Super Croc vs. Mega Doosh” sounds like an MCR b-side and the chorus of “Kanji Tattoos…Still in Style???” could have come from any of that band’s songs. Elsewhere, Iero clowns around on the skit “Robo Fonzie Meets Frank” and the Yo Gabba Gabba!-ish ode to bacon & eggs that is “We Make a Breakfast”.

The album’s most successful moments come when Dewees marries his silliness with whip-smart punk-pop songwriting, and keeps the humor from feeling too much like an inside joke the listener isn’t privy too. Examples include “37”, about monsters kidnapping Dewees for their band (“I said ‘Why can’t you take Bruno Mars?’ / And they said that they don’t like Bruno Mars / And I said ‘Everybody likes Bruno Mars’ “), and “Revenge Is a Dish Best Served at Park Chan-Wook’s House”, an ode to the South Korean film director. Less successful are the Druidic chant of “Guerrera” and the “Happy Chickens” sequel “Fowlin’ Around”. The faux-’80s dance/synth numbers “Gimme Back My Leg” and “Sundae, Booty Sundae” fall about in the middle.

Ultimately, it’s great to have Reggie and the Full Effect back and sounding fun again, even if it does often sound like a handful of friends goofing off over a long weekend. When No Country for Old Musicians hits (“Super Croc”, “37”, “Kanji Tattoos”), it sounds great. When it misses (“Guerrera”, “Who Needs Another Drank?”, all the joke songs & skits), at least it’s no worse than anything on past efforts. In that sense, it really does sound like a return to those first few Reggie albums.

3/5

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