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The Partridge Family they are not. They are possibly as far out, though. The Trachtenburg Family ventures into a completely new musical concept on their album Vintage Slideshow Collections From Seattle: Volume 1. Here's the basic idea: they go to estate sales, buy old slide show collections and then write songs about the people in the pictures. It's mind-blowingly simple; it's the lo-tech version of the reverse creation of a music video. And, if that isn't enough for you, The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players are a real family; a mom, a dad, and their 9-year-old daughter provide the music, as well as the slides in their live show.
From the very basic concept of this group, anyone can tell that this is quite possibly the first truly live band to come along in a while. It is extremely hard to achieve the same experience that you get when you see the Players live when you are listening to Vintage Slideshow Collections From Seattle: Volume 1, mainly because you can't see what they are singing about; it loses some of its novelty. In turn, the lyrics don't correspond to anything and they simply don't make sense. The counterargument to that is most other songs don't necessarily make sense either, and most people usually just listen to it for the aesthetic pleasure. Vintage Slideshow Collections has that same kind of pleasing appeal, but since the listener knows that there is a visual aspect that corresponds to each new lyric they may view the album as sort of a let down, especially if they have seen the band live.
The Players, however, aren't just an interesting novelty act; they make the songs work. Jason Trachtenburg sings the songs in a bouncy way that may remind you of songs from your childhood. The most notable of these songs is "Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959," the first song that the family wrote as a band. It references everything from public execution to cocker spaniel puppies. They track, along with one or two others could be cut a verse short, it drags on listening to it on the album, live in concert is a different story. Their reoccurring theme of McDonald's on six different tracks is an interesting idea, but, unfortunately, most of those tracks' lyrics consist of one quote being repeated over and over, and that gets a little tiresome on the ears.. Coupled with that, some of the songs appear to lack real musical merit, in that they may fall short of most people's normal expectations because the band produced the album themselves.
All that said… who really cares? The Trachtenburg Family is the most original thing to happen to music in a long time. They are like Weird Al Yankovic, with slides, a nine-year-old girl, and those egg shakers from elementary school. So, basically, they aren't anything like Weird Al, but they are extremely good, and I recommend checking them out in concert before you listen to the album. Only listen to the album if you want to know what to expect, which isn't necessarily the best thing in this case... just let the family surprise you, and they will.
Jason Cipriano is the Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.