Overlooked in the Aughts is an ongoing feature focusing on some of the best albums from the 2000s that haven’t quite received the attention they deserved. Today’s post: Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!’s self-titled record.
If you’ve sat down to watch anything on FX in the past few months, you’ve no doubt been bombarded with countless promos for the channel’s new show, “The League.” The promo for the show never caught my eye: the concept is certainly cute, but an entire series about fantasy sports doesn’t seem to be a solid, multi-season affair, especially when the very element of interactivity (that which makes fantasy leagues so interesting) is stripped from the premise, forcing viewers to simply view and not share the fun. However, I was struck when one of the promos featured an actor who seemed startling out of place: Mark Duplass.
Duplass is an unknown name for many, and for a particular reason. The method of moviemaking that brought Duplass recognition in the film community is none other than mumblecore, a brand of DIY filmmaking that sprung up over the past decade. Mumblecore films tend to feature rambling storylines, half-spoken dialogue and a jumbled collection of mundane scenes, all of which are reason that most mumblecore movies never really caught on with the majority of the movie viewing public. Despite the odds, Mark Duplass and his brother Jay have manage to carve themselves something of a niche in the mumblecore market. Their 2005 film, The Puffy Chair, was something of an independent sensation and no doubt helped the brothers get a movie deal with Sony for their 2008 feature, Baghead.
Mark Duplass has since made waves as an actor on his own, recently starring in the well-received twist-on-bromance movie, Humpday. And now he’s got a starring role on “The League.” Yet, of all the roles Duplass has had over the years, the one I’m most taken with is his role as lead singer and organist for Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!
Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! may not have the easiest band name in town (I’m sure, somewhere out there, a copy editor is having a fit when they find this band), but man are their songs spot on. Their 2004 debut, Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! has some note-for-note fantastic pop tunes. Like “Trunk of My Car,” which has an angelic simplicity that rises with every new a cappella vocal and just soars once the song’s rolling drum beat kicks in. And that’s just one song.
Long before “indie” became a catchall term (well, “long” is subjective), the trio of Duplass, Craig Montoro (guitar, vocals) and John Robinette (drums, vocals) culled together a fine arrangement of tunes drenched in the existential despair of modern existence. The characters in their songs have problems, but their the kind of seemingly-small humps that hang over many individuals’ heads in (what was then) times of relative calm and ease. Accompanying key-heavy ditties are people who “never looked as bored as her/in green” and folks who “like to pretend/that I am the one.” The songs are simple, delivered with the utmost sincerity, and seem to contain a faint musical nostalgia without overburdening the band’s forward-thinking arrangements.
There’s something about VISE!! that’s unsettling: it might be that the songs seem to fly by without a whim or care for time, that it seems to point to greater things for the band, that it seems all but forgotten. Though not every minute of the album is a winner – a solid chunk of the album is devoted to the kind of atmosphere-setting tones that merely account for introductions to the best tunes – but it only manages to highlight the pop-radio-ready songs that fill a majority of the album.
So, though history made it apparent that Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! would never be on par with the Mates of State of the decade, at least there’s a fine document of the kind of tunes so many “indie” bands today could only hope to create.
Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! – “Trunk of My Car”:
Bonus video: “The League” promo with Mark Duplass: