By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
In the bloated pantheon of sensitive-boy rock, with all its journal scribbling and conspicuous self-pity, it's an accomplishment to rise above simple mediocrity -- something that stellar virtuosos like Jonah Matranga (onelinedrawing) and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) do effortlessly, while Kind of Like Spitting's Ben Barnett struggles and stumbles upon occasional brilliance, but for the most part, belongs locked in the bedroom where these songs were born (like Matranga and Oberst, Barnett is the only constant in Kind of Like Spitting).
100 Dollar Room is a lesson for acoustic-guitar-wielding youths everywhere -- put as much work into the music as you put into those heartwormed lyrics, boy. The scores to Barnett's poetry are exceedingly simple and lack dynamics; when his forced adolescent croon does pause, the guitar work amounts to little more than wanking. And, while on the subject of wanking, Barnett either has a sense of humor about his skill level or is subconsciously making jokes at his own expense by including a track like the a cappella "B-Side Poetry," with its nauseatingly trite lyrics: "I loved you so much/You were the candle I wanted to touch/But just like fire/You broke through my skin."
There is a sense that Barnett realizes the pretension of the ring he's tossed his hat into, like during one of the album's better moments, "Yes, You're Busted," where he asks, "Will you call me a genius when I write down all my fears?/When I'm locked in my room all day trying to sound like it's been years?" Sorry, Ben, no genius accolades for this one. The other high point, "Free Advice," is a gem amongst the musical coal; its minor-key progression, while not unique, conveys more emotion than any other song on the record; further texturing is done to the mood by Elizabeth Elmore's (formerly of Sarge) backing vocals.
The most annoying thing about Kind of Like Spitting's most recent effort is that Barnett fancies himself a clever bugger; the album opens with "Hook," a sparse 30-second, one-verse intro that's slightly expanded on three tracks later with "Hoax," which features the same verse but with added instrumentation. These are both teasers for the album's next-to-last song, "Cater," a Superchunk-ish rock attempt that finishes off with the same verse we've previously heard twice. It's a juvenile form of the trickery employed by bands like Joan of Arc and the Promise Ring, who often weave themes via song titles and repeated lyrics across their albums. Barnett's attempt is just too damn transparent, and, like the bulk of this record, there's no inspiration driving it.