Robots R (not) Shtupid

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[Credit Johnny Doherty  @juan_doh]
 What happens when a “crazed and mysterious inventor” gets bored? Music!

“Crafted by the idle hands of…Dr. Leo Shtupid, the Stupid Robots have been an affront to nature since their inception. After spending years in desolate solitude, Dr Shtupid felt the need to entertain himself. He began converting household appliances into autonomous, music-making devices in order to create algorithmically perfect songs. The underlying algorithms, however, included a disastrous flaw, resulting in erratic originality. The Robots began to groove shamelessly, party enthusiastically, and improvise freely. They had become self aware. Although Dr Shtupid was deeply disappointed by his monstrous creation, he felt unable to decommission them. Instead, he decided to let them loose on the world at large to complete their prime directive: entertainment” (The Stupid Robots).

In reality, The Stupid Robots were formed in 2015 by Corey Beauregard (Guitar, Mandolin, and Vocals) and Jon Sanders (Drums and Vocals) with the mission of “[forming] a community around a shared love of meaningful songs, fun grooves, and exploratory improvisation.” Current members include the founders, plus Eric Swanson (Guitar and Vocals), Devin Fernberg (Bass-electric and upright) Aaron Bedard (Percussion), and Nick Parisi (Keyboards and Vocals). The group continues to play throughout the New England area today, and opened Robot Records in 2017 to strengthen the music community. They host yearly events, most notably the Strange Creek Camp Out and Wormtown Music Festival. 

The Stupid Robots’ latest album, Artificial Idiocy and Simulated Sounds, will be available on all streaming services staring November 2, 2019. If you subscribe to their BandCamp page, you can even receive access to exclusive content and discounts on merchandise!

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[All remaining images: Hoppin Hill Photography]
“Casino” starts off the album with an echoing guitar riff matched by resounding piano lines and a matching plump, groovy bassline. The mix of instrumentals feels very full and bright, making for a solid base behind the vocals. Smooth, lightly grainy vocals and lighter backup vocals are a pleasing addition to the bounciness of the track. With slight ska influences, “Casino” is definitely a fun listen in terms of instrumentals, but also in its goofy lyrics: Half a subway sandwich / and a cup of steamy joe / Ain’t got nothing else to do / and nowhere else to go / Spends all night pulling levers / on a penny slot machine / Right on through the morning / while the staff is vacuuming….” The characterization of the gambling-obsessed man in “Casino” is not only masterful, but amusing and impressively dynamic.

“Fever Dream” is one of the most energetic songs I have ever reviewed. Its instrumentals sprint from measure to measure at the start of the track, never giving the vocalist a moment to breathe—not that it seems to bother him! From a full-tilt beginning, the song slows into an electronic ballad, highlighting the band’s robot-oriented origin story. Before we know it, The Stupid Robots pick up the pace again, not slipping even for a beat as the track speeds into an organized chaos. The ebbing and flowing of “Fever Dream’s” energy and pace makes it a truly unique and dynamic track to listen to.

“Lost” employs a prominent, classic-sounding bassline with some simple fills as its opener. The emphasis on the low end combined with groovy guitar lines, chaotic-good keyboard riffs, and the snappy, snazzy percussion creates an interesting aesthetic: jazz meets disco meets funk! I especially love how the instrumentals are woven together in some parts of the track, but other parts give the bass the forefront. It’s not often enough that bass players get to have their time!

The track’s lyrics aren’t the most impressive of the track in terms of diction or lyricism, but they are filled with positivity, which is something to be admired equally: “My biggest worry in life / is I don’t worry at all / Focused on the landing / the adventures in the fall / Pick yourself off the ground / Try to wipe off all that dirt / Realize that you were never hurt / Try again or you will never learn / Got no destination / Not sure where I’m bound / Being lost sure feels like being found / Just like the past and future / I’m living in the now….”

“So Am I” brings in even more of the funkiness that was hinted at in the previous tracks. Perfect for fans of funky fun, “So Am I” is filled with various forms of percussion, softly-plucked stand-up bass, and spunky guitar riffs that prove every member of the band contributes all they’ve got to every track. Although the energy of “So Am I” isn’t as aggressive as in other tracks, its quieter vigor leaves nothing to be desired.

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“Suburbia” is another beautiful example of The Stupid Robots’ talent for creating characters and storylines. Its lyrics reveal the truth behind a quiet town and one if its inhabitants: “Quiet streets / that don’t have side walks / Square acre / and a decorated mail box / New clothes / thirty dollar hair cut / Borrowed car / never rolls the windows up / Eighteen / gonna be president / Thinks he’ll turn it down / he’s a little too good for it / Frozen food / tv through the cornea / Twenty minute hot showers / that’s just living in suburbia.” While I love what The Stupid Robots have done with the lyrics of the song, I want more! Who else lives here, and what are they like? It would be a fun concept for a follow-up track to “Suburbia” if we got to see more of what the kid’s life is like, or maybe how his neighbors are doing. 

In terms of musicality, “Suburbia” is a well-paced jam with instrumentals structured around its lyrical phrasing. Its hard-rock feel and familiar musical themes such as stunted measures that jump down the sharpness of a scale allow the track to embrace what listeners know, but put a whole new spin on old themes to make them new again. 

The title of “Hippopotamus Jam” is eye-catching on its own, and the musicality of the track backs up its immediate curb appeal. Funky and fresh, “Hippopotamus Jam” is the perfect example of a lyric-less interlude that actually works. Without giving the track a chance to grow stale, the instrumentals flow through differing rhythmic sections, incorporating laser-like keyboard melodies, womp-wahing guitar parts, and a steadiness in the various kinds of percussion that allows it all to happen.

“The Ballad of Joe Solomon” is a chilled-out description of being in a band. Lines like Down the stage / ran a river / a river of rum,” “driving home / not a care in the world / Scenic route / on two lane roads / thinkin’ about girls,” and No practice / in a week in a half / and I cant even strike a chord / Late to the show / summer afternoon / Forgot the words / played out of tune” will be familiar to fellow musicians who give the track a listen. They may come for the lyrical content, but listeners will definitely stay for the bongos! The percussion of “The Ballad of Joe Solomon” is one of the many instrumental parts that make the track pleasing to the ear, including raspy bass parts and wah-woahing guitar lines. 

“Run” is another song with lower energy than the majority of its peers. Presenting listeners with a bit of a break from the breakneck speed of songs like “Fever Dream,” “Run” focuses its energy on surf-punk-esque guitar solos and ska-based basslines. Well-placed in its spot in the end-of-the-middle of Artificial Idiocy and Simulated Sounds, “Run” does feel a bit like a filler in the grand scheme of things, but it isn’t any less interesting to listen to on its own.

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“Momma’s Cookin” will bring back a sense of nostalgia for many listeners who remember visiting their mother or grandmother and being stuffed to the gills with the best food: “Come on in / Tell me what you want to eat / Well we don’t got that / But I can whip you up something sweet / Only heirloom veggies / You pick your own right out back / But if it don’t get cooked in butter / I just don’t see the point in that.” The specificity of the lyrics makes the song stand out among today’s mass-manufactured rock tracks, allowing listeners to really get to know the character The Stupid Robots have created and feel liek they’re in the kitchen, too. Even those without the experience of eating “Momma’s Cookin” will be able to enjoy the action-packed musicality of this track. A racing bassline and bright tambourine hits punctuate every measure, intertwined with an energetic keyboard part and free-flowing guitar riffs.

“New England Blues” had a hollow tone to it that took me a bit off guard. While I wasn’t a fan of the presentation of the track in the sense of its production and mix, its plodding bassline and matching guitar and keyboard lines were rhythmically pleasing. Its lyrics are also relatable, as someone currently living in Vermont: I like four seasons / That’s what I tell my friends down south / I got my reasons / I watch the breath come out my mouth / Sun burns in summer / Crispy leaves in fall / No matter the weather / I love to hate ’em all / Can’t drive a car without a plow / Still expected to be at work somehow / Tired of kicking snow off the soles your shoes / So I guess you got them New England blues…. / Can’t drive a car without a plow / Still expected to be at work somehow / Tired of kicking snow off the soles your shoes / So I guess you got them new England blues.” 

The intro to “Prisoner’s Demise” is heavy-hitting and enthusiastic, confidently clearing space for the rest of its 4:23 run. While the western twang of the track gives it a certain edge, the creativity in its poetic lyrics is really what makes it stand out from the rest: “Good old fashioned / American lies / Saw them every time / I looked into her eyes / Two oval mirrors / Set back in fine complexion / All that I was seeing / Had just been my reflection / Made my life a battle / You know I was old Ulysses / The General Lee inside of me / His rifle never misses / He patiently awaits / For any sign weakness / A flaw in the defenses / Or hint of confidence.” The acknowledgement of the darkness inside the character in question makes “Prisoner’s Demise” an interesting song to listen to through multiple listens. 

The final song of the album is “Bet Your Boots.” Following in “Prisoner’s Demise’s” western boot prints, the track is a fast-paced finale that feels like it could have been a continuation of the previous track. I was not a fan of its lyrics, as it seemed that the women mentioned were caricatures rather than real people (“Blue eyed girls from south Kentucky / Mountain love if I get lucky / I can make a mess / wherever they be / Can’t forget what the good doc said / Remember this until I’m dead / ‘Cause a woman’s ass / and whisky glass / made a horse’s ass outta me”), but it did not go as far as to cloud my opinion of the rest of the album, just how it concludes. If “Bet Your Boots” was not included, I do believe that Artificial Idiocy and Simulated Sounds would be a much stronger album as a whole, as its other tracks do the band’s musical talents much more justice.

The Stupid Robots will be playing a release show at The Parlour in Providence, Rhode Island on November 2, 2019, so be sure to join them if you’re in the area!

Connect with The Stupid Robots:

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Instagram
BandCamp

Want more robot-inspired tunes? Check out my review of The Tsunamibots!

***Like the majority of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post.***

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