Despite dissonant image-consciousness and a trace of Jane’s Addiction in its sound, this Dallas pop-rock quartet is, at heart, as innocuous and virtuous as a troop of boy scouts. The late cover codger on the band’s debut earns the band’s dedication and the admonition to “Be Kind. Respect the elderly,” while the unlisted hidden track — a surreal spoken fable — delivers a message about love overcoming racism. Cleanly co-produced by Texas scene veteran Patrick Keel (ex-Pool), the power poppish Bill pairs the occasional quizzical lyric (“We are the brown-eyed pickle boy”???) with well-crafted melodies and sterling performances, aiming the group for mainstream accessibility while using Beatlesque psychedelia and other shreds of strangeness to lend offbeat credibility. Singer/lyricist Tim DeLaughter’s acrobatic vocals and guitarist Wes Berggren’s propulsive strumming lend Bill enough variety to keep it from sinking into blandlivion-but just barely.
The five tracks recorded live in Dallas for the harder-rocking Get It On include Bill’s “Blown Away” and “On the Ground,” a cover of Bad Religion’s “We’re Only Gonna Die” and two new originals, including the bass-popping “Get It On,” a maddening novelty number in which DeLaughter blurts the title over and over with barely a pause for breath.
Ted Nicely co-produced i am an ELASTIC FIRECRACKER, an uneven, unfocused followup that mounts a stronger rock attack and gives prominent play to the Perry Farrell aspect of DeLaughter’s singing. But as the tortured “Prick” and other tracks head down Jane’s road, Tripping Daisy can’t muster the ‘tude to match the sound, and the band’s moral center remains unmoved by the keening melodies and blustery guitar. Thoughtful and colorfully expressed lyrical meditations on insecurity, motivation, love and addiction mark Tripping Daisy as smart, positive and socially aware. “Step Behind” and “I Got a Girl” revisit the poles of Bill’s pop (flowery psychedelia and surging power pop); “Same Dress New Day” stitches in a doodly theremin for dinky charm. Throughout the album, Tripping Daisy comes off confused but intermittently entertaining.