Reviews: 4.4.19: The Armoires’ Two Songs of the Moment

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Armoires | “(How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me?” b/w “Not a Good Man”
(Big Stir Digital Singles, 2019)

The 23rd release in the ongoing Big Stir Digital Singles series is a whizzing whizbang that juggles velocity and an ever-present cadre of moving parts that sizzle and steep like a teabag that has dutifully filled an oversized mug with aromatic flavor.

In other words, this is a thing that cannot be contained because why would you want to? The Armoires are back, baby, and the fruits of their new labors compel you to chugalug with abandon.

This is the song pairing of the moment, and it’s a toss-up as to which track wins its way into your heart over the other. I mean, pick and choose your favorite and do the very same an hour later and I submit that it would be hard for you to choose.

“(How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me?,” a stomping garage rocker with blink-and-you’ll-miss-them baroque touches, ear-ringing background harmonies, spit and a whole lot of polish, co-written by Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko, kicks in with a very Byrdsian guitar figure atop drum smacks, cymbal crashes, and Larysa Bulbenko’s steady viola. Spygenius’s Ruth Rogers pilots a runaway bass line that works in tandem with Derek Hanna’s drums to propel the track forward. And, if you determine that Christina’s vocal is delivered in the best Debbie Harry tradition, you would probably be correct.

The story told is one of a mismatched couple who hang in there against all odds. But why is this couple together? The narrator sums up the perilous situation with one of the cleverest lyrics I’ve heard this year: “They call me three miles of bad road, but babe, I’m the whole 405 / And the biggest mistakes take the longest to kill you, and that’s why you’re still alive.”

Produced by Plasticsoul’s Steven Wilson with the Armoires, the half-parenthetically-titled “(How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me?,” which will feature on the Armoires’ forthcoming album Zibaldone (due in August), is a hoot of thing, a real live honest-to-goodness keeper. But, and your mileage, as they say, may vary, the song’s digital single mate, “Not a Good Man,” may well eclipse it and wind up your favorite.

If “(How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me?” is a stomping garage rocker, “Not a Good Man” is full of extra-added stomp. A supercharged back-and-forth duet, with Rex Broome taking the Sonny position and Christina Bulbenko taking the Cher, this I-don’t-deserve-you-well-I-don’t-care four-on-the-floor rock and roll-until-the-finish-line-is-in-sight track is fully baked with crunchy electric guitars, pumping drums, and Larysa Bulbenko’s viola as the musical cherry on top.

Round about the 2:47 mark, the band ever-so-temporarily hits the snooze button, and Rex mutters “Probably should have finished the song.” Christina coos a knowing “Uh-huh,” Rex mutters “Okay,” the guitars kick back in, and Christina gets the band back in gear with a strong-willed “Sock it to me!” in her best Judy Carne verbal guise. From there, the guitars are in charge, the background singers chant “Awoo not not a” as if they’d just wandered in from recording America’s “Sister Golden Hair,” and the track comes to a close, but not before tipping its hat to early ELO with a thump of a tag that would only have raised even more hackles had a full orchestra been ushered into the mix.

“Not a Good Man” dates back to the Armoires’ earliest days, being the first song they played live. Produced with gusto by Nathaniel Myer with the Armoires (Myer features on the track behind the drum kit, plucking the bass strings and handling the guitar solo), this is one of the kind of musical moments that, thanks to your incessant toe-tapping, will have your downstairs neighbors all hot and bothered.

“Not a Good Man,” by the way, will not feature on the upcoming Armoires platter, Zibaldone, so you will want to snap this single pairing up without delay. Offering “(How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me?” alongside “Not a Good Man” seems like the bargain of the century, or at least of the moment. However you look at it, it’s quite the thing.

Where to Get It and Preview Tracks (Releases tomorrow,
Friday, April 5): Big Stir Digital Singles (Preorder)

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

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