Timbuk 3

Greetings from Timbuk 3

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The curse of having a hit single is that it tends to define public perception of your music in a very specific way, and after Timbuk 3 hit the Top 40 with "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades," they were quickly tagged as a novelty act by people who didn't absorb the song's satiric irony. Actually, skipping past "The Future's So Bright...," the opening cut on the group's debut Greetings From Timbuk 3, to the second tune, "Life Is Hard," would have told folks a lot more about the duo's lyrical perspective -- no less satiric but a lot more grim, the song sandwiches the tale of a rich kid in between two stories of losers crumbling along life's margins, and not finding much to snigger about in their collective misery. Songwriter Pat MacDonald goes for laughs more often than not on Greetings From Timbuk 3, but the effect is usually that of whistling past the graveyard -- the couple living vicariously through their television on "Cheap Black and White," the street-smart metaphors of "Facts About Cats," and the sociological speculation of "Hairstyles and Attitudes." And anyone who doesn't catch the bitterness of "Just Another Movie" couldn't have been listening. Timbuk 3's beatbox-fueled folk-rock would get a lot more sophisticated over their next few albums; on Greetings From Timbuk 3, the production and arrangements are serviceable though not terribly special, though both Pat MacDonald and Barbara K show off impressive guitar chops and fine harmonies. But as a songwriter, Pat MacDonald had already arrived at a pretty interesting destination, and while "The Future's So Bright" hardly suggested the full range of his gifts, the whole of Greetings From Timbuk 3 showed he had lots to say about life in these United States.

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