In a music market saturated with bands that take themselves way too seriously, and a whole bunch of other bands that are clamoring to write the next best song that the Lumineers never wrote, the 53 Willys debut album is a breath of fun air. If anyone is bringing the party to your local Detroit drinking establishment, into your car, home, double-wide, rest stop, or bordello, it’s these guys. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they were teasing us for taking ourselves too damn seriously. Lighten up if you want to enjoy this record.
A quick perusal of album tracks like “Beach Blanket Beer Jacket,” “GFY (Go Funk Yourself),” and Babysitter will tell you that these guys are trying to make you laugh at the expense of others, which isn’t always a bad thing, especially if the result is laughter. Your kindergarten teacher would have told you differently, but who cares, that was years ago. We’re all adults here right?
The first two tracks, “Beach Blanket Beer Jacket” and “Good Cop, Bad Cop” seem like plays right out of the Frank Zappa, Cake, and Weird Al parody books, right down to the psychedelic solo, instrumental bridge, and ironic delivery of one of the bands three lead vocalists and Grosse Pointe native, Shawn Grose. “BBBJ” details an awkward 21 year old channeling Elvis through his jacket to get girls and “GCBC” detailing how one might make a “rest stop booty call” by “toe tappin’ under the stall.” If that’s not fodder for Zappa-esqe lyricism, then I don’t know what is.
Outside of the humor, there are some genuine rockers here, where humor is short, but energy and bluster are high where 53 Willys switches from channeling Zappa and Cake and they veer into classic strut rock ala The Stray Cats’ tinged “T for Texas” and their theme song “53 Willys” and the up-tempo, yet sentimental acoustic ballad of “Sugar Lake.”
This debut long player is full of pleasantly diverse musical surprises, humor laced lyrics, honest delivery, and a cool band name derived from an old Jeep. Ultimately it brings the promise of 53 Willys; a band that is interested in playing a diverse range of music where anyone can find something to like. While they don’t admit it freely on their website or anywhere else, they really don’t care if you or anyone else actually likes their music, they are just hoping you’ll come along for the ride, because at the end of the day, as Zappa once said; “Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.” He’s right, and 53 Willys will still have more fun than you if you don’t get in the Jeep, uh, the 53 Willys that is.