Napoleon Blown Apart

by Robbie Rist

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    Wonderboy had never completely arrived on record before Napoleon Blown Apart, a supreme piece of pop/rock and, by a long shot, the finest of the band's three recordings. After blowing the dust off the speakers with the quick thrash onslaught of "Tick," the album settles into a superlative string of first-rate songs, a few of them among the best out of the great L.A. pop underground scene, various participants of which show up in force throughout. Members of the Negro Problem, Wondermints, and Cockeyed Ghost, among others, all dropped by to add touches to the album, and the spirit of collaboration and camaraderie seems to be one of the factors that spurred the quartet to new heights. The transformation isn't so much a result of the band's performing capabilities -- those were never in question even in the lesser moments of its first two albums -- as it is from an entirely sympathetic and idiosyncratic production melding beautifully with an unimpeachable, multifaceted set of tunes from Robbie Rist. Instead of treating the process like a live recording, Wonderboy gives in to the full range of studio flourishes, even peppering the music with keyboards, accordion, and horns at times. The production has depth, with a really warm and full low-end sound that the first album, in particular, lacked, and capturing more than the single speed (fast) and decibel level (earsplitting) that Wonderboy had previously been content to show. Rist also comes into his own as a vocalist. His singing had always been an acquired taste, but here attains a level of control and subtlety that perfectly suits the band's eclecticism. He manages the volatility of punk, the aggressiveness of rock, and the sweet naivete of pop with equal aplomb, but also shows himself capable of navigating more complex, jazzy melodic lines, such as on the brief, unlisted final track. The album exposes the full range of Wonderboy's inspirations. Elements of Buddy Holly and ska (both on "Unconditional Love") and even a touch of zydeco ("Rumours for Sale") coexist with the band's usual jones for '70s AM rock and pop, while punk takes a back seat. And '60s influences emerge more substantially than they ever had before, particularly in the guitars of Patrick McGrath and Rist, as well as in the lovely harmonies. The band transforms the jangle of early Byrds into a more aggressive attack on "What I Mean" and "Angel Wings." And if the music of the Monkees had been more informed by power pop than bubblegum, the Prefab Four might have arrived at something that sounded like "Taken," which marries the band's usual blistering attack to a melody that recalls "Pleasant Valley Sunday," then filters it through the countrified haze of '70s Laurel Canyon. "Insecurity Girl," too, has a Monkees-esque charm as well as a harmonic arrangement and structural intricacy worthy of the Beach Boys, with some of the campier piano bar flourishes of Harry Nilsson thrown in for good measure. It's unfortunate that the great advances in Wonderboy's music evident on this album had to stop here. ~ Stanton Swihart ... more

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released May 4, 2012

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Track Name: Wonderboy - Tick
Lost count of all the ways you found to suck me dry/Why'd they send me you oh why god why?/I must be a breeding ground for parasites/ TICK TICK TICK!
Track Name: Wonderboy - Why Can't One And One Be Two?
I'm not gonna burn cuz of some witch hunt that your friends have out for me/ I'm old enough to take care of more than one human entity.

Why Can't One And One Be Two?
Track Name: Wonderboy - Taken
if the words to a song are a little too obvious/Someone can shoot them down/ That's how I feel when I'm holding your hand/Touching your hair/Oh my god, it's cold shower time again
Track Name: Wonderboy - Unconditional Love
No need for biting nails when the phone don't ring/It's strange/ I'm not afraid of anything
Track Name: Wonderboy - What I Mean
I'm not feeling especially mean, girl/ But how would you feel if I told you that you never meant a thing?
Track Name: Wonderboy - Hindsight's 20/20
Now I see what went wrong/ And a lotta good it does me/ Love is blinder than blind and Hindsight's 20/20
Track Name: Wonderboy - Empty
I don't know if I'm getting any better/ I've already been the direction that I'm heading/ I'm waiting 'til something affects me
Track Name: Wonderboy - Something's Missing
Used to believe that there would be/ A thousand ways that a man could say that I love you/ But something's missing here
Track Name: Wonderboy - Rumours For Sale
A promise or a secret/ Dies the moment that it's given freedom
Track Name: Wonderboy - Angel Wings
Still there's these feelings invading my sleep/ How come the biggest thing I gave her she still wants to keep?
Track Name: Wonderboy - Insecurity Girl
The bad news bear meets the queen of quietude.