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Have you ever had a teacher that lets you take an exam, and then, after it is done and graded, allows you to redo the whole thing and boost your grade if the redo is better? That is exactly what the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players have done with the re-release of their debut album. They have put the polishing touches on what was an already highly entertaining album, and bumped up their grade.
Vintage Slide Collections From Seattle Volume 1 is the debut album from the greatest rock & roll family ever, as well as the breakout underground novelty act of the year. Since the very independent release of this album the first time around, The TFSP have played some of the biggest gigs of the last year (Bonnaroo for one, and they were on the bill for the original version of Field Day), and traveled all over the country on tour, and, managed to make Rachel's bed time almost of every night.
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.
For those of you who may not be on the hype radar for this band, they are one of the most unique musical creations of the last few years. Unlike many bands that try to claim themselves as families (the Ramones, the Donnas, etc,), or bands that say they are like family (every rock band ever), the Trachtenburgs are a real family; mom on slides, dad on keyboard and vocals, and nine year Rachel on the drums, and backup vocals. The band operates on a different level than most other bands in their song writing process, which is what makes this troupe stand way apart from everything else. Their lyrics are based on slides that they have purchased from estate sales in Seattle. They make up some of the most odd and interesting observations about the people, and present them in musical form. Their live show consists of the songs being sung while the slides are shown. It is really a full sensory experience when they perform live.
Album-wise, this re-release is quite an improvement on the original version, just because they had a bit more label support this time around from Bar/None. The first of the improvements is that the tracks sound better, and include the innocent backing of Rachel in all the places where she would be singing in the live show. On the previous release she was only on one track, "Eggs," but now her sweet voice adds accent all over this album. Her drums also make a full appearance on this album, since she is a bit more experienced now (at nine) than she was when the original was recorded (at age seven). The added vocal track and the playing of the original drummer make this a much, much better and more complete album than its prior counterpart.
Now, the most important part of the Trachtenburgs are their slides; without them they really have no show, and the album, honestly doesn't really work as well without them, the songs become a bit nonsensical. This time around, however, they have included a little extra on the CD where you can actually watch some of slides play over their respective songs (only two but two is better than zero, "Eggs" and "Mountain Trip to Japan"). This really enhances this CD, but unfortunately, it is only the two tracks, and it could be so much more it were the whole album. An extended set of liner notes is also comes along with this album, including a complete lyric sheet, and few of the slides.
Thanks to a little independent label support the Trachtenburgs were finally album to put out an album worthy of comparing to their live show. I would still highly recommend picking up this album and seeing what all the hype is about. Also, if they ever come to your town, or your state, or a surrounding state, go and see them live, it will be unlike anything you have ever paid to see before.
Jason Cipriano is the Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.