The German Art Students

What Did You Expect? Heartland Rock?

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This debut release has the quirky humor of Madison, WI, written all over it. The birthplace of The Onion also gave birth to the smirking foursome known as the German Art Students, whose name gives a strong hint to their preferred motif: mocking character studies. Each one of the songs on What Did You Expect? Heartland Rock? offers a succinct slice of character-driven storytelling, relentlessly making fun of people who are too heavily into their scenes. From the pretentious art student ("Left of Center") to the obsessive geek-hobbyist ("Civil War Re-enactor") to the self-satisfied insurance agent ("Blue Skylark"), few walks of life are spared. What makes these songs succeed, much like any other parody, is their attention to detail: these kids do a wonderful job of citing such specifics as triple-toe loops, the Franklin Mint Collection, and the Monitor versus the Merrimack. On that basis, "Disgruntled Figure Skating Judge" and "Civil War Re-enactor" are the most effective songs of the lot, with imaginative topics and joyful singalong refrains. Lead vocalist Annelies Howell is plaintive yet nerdishly effective in her deliveries, appropriately quirky for the subject matter; the musicianship necessarily takes a back seat and is clearly done on the cheap, but the guitars are jangly and the drums are steady. Like any novelty recording, this album doesn't bear listening to with great regularity, but as indie recordings go, it's a tremendously fun change of pace from the modern rock that takes itself so painfully seriously.

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