Reggie and the Full Effect – Under the Tray

I expected another dose of genius, and what I got was a little something lower on the food chain. Reggie and the Full Effect’s debut effort, Greatest Hits ’84-’87, was and still is wonderful, perfectly combining comedy and nerded-out indie rock. The second effort, Promotional Copy, was almost as wildly entertaining. But now, with Under the Tray, it feels as though the same jokes are being rehashed again and again, and some things are getting pretty tiresome while others get fresher and better.
For those of you who don’t know, Reggie and the Full Effect is an odd project. No artist names are ever given, and the whole thing has been shrouded in mystery since its conception. Gradually though, fans have discovered that former Coalesce member and current Get Up Kid James Dewees is pretty much the mastermind behind the whole thing, joined by a rotating cast of guys from comparable bands, including fellow Get Up Kid Matt Pryor. Half of the tracks on every release are jokes, ranging from samples and skits to synthed-out love songs and blazing heavy metal. The other half consists of actual songs that are essentially quirky emo-pop with a tremendous reliance on huge riffs, blinding hooks, and downright sappy lyrics.
As far as the jokes on Under the Tray go, they just aren’t that funny. Four different versions of “Drunk Girl at the Get Up Kids Show,” all of which are uneventful samples of a conversation with some poor female now immortalized on record, feel rather unnecessary. “Mood 4 Luv,” a keyboard-heavy love song straight out of the 80s, brings back the imaginary Fluxuation, a character who was much more entertaining on Promotional Copy. “F.O.O.D. aka Aren’t You Hungary” is a jazzy and completely absurd number that bursts into a wall of screams and guitar solos, while “Linkin Verbz” is a heavy metal grammar lesson. Yes, I’m serious.
On the other hand, the actual songs have gotten more diverse and actually quite good. After the lulling and less than thrilling opener, “Your Bleedin’ Heart,” there are quality songs like “Image is Nothing, Lobsters are Everything,” which is a dark, dreary, and surprisingly entertaining tale of broken love. That song, along with others like the equally excellent “Megan 2k2 (Even Though It’s 2k3 Now),” relies heavily on an assortment of electronics the band has never utilized with such success. Meanwhile, “Apocalypse WOW!” rocks harder than any other song here, but it keeps itself somewhat under control and doesn’t break down into a jumble of noise and inside jokes as some other tracks do. The grungy “What Won’t Kill You Eats Gas,” the goofy “Getting by With It’s,” and the rocking “Happy V-Day” (which, if my ears aren’t lying to me, features Hot Rod Circuit’s Andy Jackson on supporting vocals) also stand out as highlights. However, there are songs like “Congratulations Smack and Katy,” which not only make plays on song titles from the previous two albums but also sound remarkably like two or three songs the band has already recorded.
“It’s always for the satisfaction / And we do it just to get a reaction,” goes a line in “Getting By With It’s,” and that’s the feeling one gets when listening to this. It seems like Reggie and the Full Effect is less of an actual band and more of a middle finger, making jokes and rocking out without caring who is listening or what those listeners think. And in the end, the results this time are severely mixed.