The Cucumbers – All Things to You

The Cucumbers
All Things to You

Hoboken, New Jersey’s Cucumbers have been at this off and on for some 20 years now writing friendly pop songs that owe little to trends or momentary notions of cool. Hell, they’ve been indie longer that many DOA readers have been alive probably, and now, well into their dotage, they’ve dragged themselves from their rocking chairs and into the studio once again for this, only their sixth release.

What’s clear from All Things to You is that the Cukes are having a grand time peddling their effervescent tunes to whoever will listen. Good natured, sunny melodies abound, sung by husband-and-wife team Deena Shoshkes and Jon Fried with a wide enough vein of seriousness to fend off charges of frivolity. The manic pop of “Whiskey” extols the virtues of wandering around Brooklyn with a bellyful of the potion that “holds the secret power to unlock the cryptic message hidden in me.” That’s a fine description of the liquor’s magic, and it’s good to hear that these seemingly well-adjusted adults (and parents) still enjoy letting their hair down now and again.

“We won’t give up on happiness,” they sing in “Happiness,” and to their credit the music behind the marital harmonies is bright and breezy but not cloying. With a two-decade stretch behind them, their polite insistence on positivism carries weight, and the tune itself has enough melodic fiber to stick hard. Memorable hooks aren’t really a problem for the Cucumbers, as they cough up a bunch throughout the generous 14 songs tendered here. From sweet ballads like “Bend Me Like a Willow” and “The Warm Sound of Your Voice” (the latter sporting a nice electric sitar) to the well scrubbed jangle of “Right Here, Right Now,” this stuff skirts overt cleverness and cuteness though it is hook-smart and frequently lovable.

Unfortunately the one misstep is also the song that has the best intentions. “Musicians I Know” is a rundown of the many part-time noodlers a 20-year-old band will inevitably befriend as they scour the want ads for replacement rhythm sections. As Deena parcels shout-outs to the reluctant truck drivers and plumbers who refuse to free up the basement by selling their gear, the song barrels along into a lame chorus unworthy of these brave dreamers. Still, it’s a reminder that there exists in every city a community of hard working lugs who spend their free time honing the pop muse instead of watching TV, cleaning up the yard, or feeding shut-ins. The Cucumbers are a part of the continuum, and, one duff track aside, this disc shows them to be aging very well.

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Cucumbers I guess, trying to hang on to band members and record labels, staying married and raising kids. Recorded casually over a two-year stretch, All Things to You sounds like a labor of love from people who must actually have a lot of other shit to do, I’m sure. Between the soccer games, parent/teacher conferences, and workplace strategy meetings, they’ve managed to write and record an album that betrays the joy they feel in being a part of the pop process. Their biggest success is that a considerable portion of that joy is bestowed upon the listener as well.