words: Alex Wexelman
“Un, deux, trois, fuck,” Brad Turk counts off at the start of Karen Meat & the Computer’s song “Backing Up.” Turk’s mispronunciation of trios as “tah” neatly sums up the group’s ethos: earnestly un-earnest. Across the four songs that make up the Des Moines band’s upcoming EP, On the Couch (out June 3 via Sump Pump Records), there’s an irreverent streak that distills the darker moments with an inviting lightness.
Case and point is the EP’s opening track “I Made You a Card,” which chronicles an unhealthy relationship of co-dependence and substance abuse that, on the surface, sounds like a traditional love song due to the call-and-response vocals between Turk and Arin Eaton. The song presents the same male-female vocal dynamic, pop sensibility and manipulative storyline of the Human League’s classic “Don’t You Want Me,” though the characters that inhabit the Karen Meat song would be more likely to be thrown out of a cocktail bar than to meet there.
Like the best episodes of Freaks and Geeks, there are serious moments on the EP, but they’re offset by a sense of humor that ultimately leaves the impression of a good time. The songs are upbeat, fun numbers led by Casio drum pre-sets and a chiming Omnichord that lays down the foundation for the band’s catchy, harmonized melodies.
On the aforementioned “Backing Up,” Turk and Eaton squabble over their own life philosophies. Brad finds “tranquility while in reverse” while Arin has “no time for backing up.” Trading off verses, each makes a case for their side. They are at odds with one another and, in a fed up tone, Eaton tells Bradley, as she calls him, that he isn’t listening and that she doesn’t want to rehash this argument. But the whole thing is a performance—at the end of the song Arin laughs letting the listener no there are no hard feelings between the two.
Lead single “On the Couch” is a self-aware love song that is all the cuter for being so. It’s also an obvious choice for the EP’s namesake since it exemplifies all the best traits of Karen Meat’s music: it’s playful as well as infinitely re-playable. And if you have an ear for hooky, enjoyable you’ll definitely re-playing this one over and over.