REVIEW WRITTEN BY JOE BARRON
It’s been a busy summer for the Doubleclicks. On Aug. 11, the self-styled nerd-folk duo of Angela Webber and her older sister, Aubrey, released their fifth album, “President Snakes,” and in September they will embark on a tour they call Nerd Night Out.
“The joke is it’s a great show for people who basically never leave the house,” Angela said recently, speaking by phone from her home on Portland, Ore.
The tour will bring the Doubleclicks back to Melodies Café in Ardmore Sept. 11, a year after their memorable debut there. They liked the place so much that this time they’re bringing a couple of friends ― the comedian Joseph Scrimshaw and singer-songwriter Molly Lewis.
The show will include sketches and games ― “for the nerdy audience,” Angela said ― as well as songs from “President Snakes,” which is rather an odd name for rather an odd political candidate.
“President Snakes is a character we came up with,” Angela said. “It’s five snakes wearing a suit pretending to be a person, running for president, and it became the mascot for this album.”
The title track is a snappy, two-minute campaign song that will convince even the most hard-hearted ophidiophobe to cough up a campaign contribution. Angela maintains the song does not reflect any political point of view, and the album is a whole is the sisters’ most personal effort.
Superficially, the tracks deal with the same concerns the Doubleclicks are known for ― social awkwardness, self-acceptance, dinosaurs and cats. As always, the wit is delivered through uncannily simple, singalong tunes that stick in the mind for weeks.
This time, however, the Webber sisters have foregone the services of backup musicians, producing each track and playing all the instruments themselves. Angela, the principal lyricist, has dug deeper than usual for “Bad Memories,” a wonderful song about the petty cruelties children inflict on one another. Everything in it, she said, is factual.
Total creative control has unfortunately resulted in a couple of misfires. “Tiny Paper Elephants” tries a bit too hard to be uplifting, and “Cats at Parties” suffers from its new arrangement. The drum machine and electronic burbling capture the feeling of being trapped in disco hell, but they undermine the song’s character as an antisocial anthem. The defiance comes though more clearly in the video version, which uses a standard rhythm section that lays down a beat and otherwise stays out of the way.
But the songs return form with “Really Big Chickens,” and they stay there for the rest of the CD. Aubrey deserves special mention for the vocals “Happy Holidays, Too,” another of the Doubleclicks’ wry takes on lengths people go to have a good time at Christmas. She has a big, versatile voice, which usually makes her the go-to for harmonies, and her solos are as welcome as they are rare.
“President Snakes” debuted at No. 4 on Billboard’s list of best-selling comedy albums, but “comedy” doesn’t really describe what the Doubleclicks have accomplished here. The work ranges from clever to touching to bitter, and in the album’s one cover, they transform Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” from a punkish goof to a lump-in-the-throat-raising lullaby. (For a YouTube tutorial on the ways a good song can be reinterpreted, watch both groups’ videos.) Here’s the Doubleclicks’ version:
“You can label us whatever you want. We’re just going to be the Doubleclicks,” Angela said. “We have tried at times to fit into one thing, and it doesn’t usually work. We have some songs that are just jokes. We have some that are sad. We have decided that is OK.”
IF YOU GO: Nerd Night Out, featuring the Doubleclicks, Molly Lewis and Joseph Scrimshaw at Friday, Sept. 11, 8 p.m. at Melodies Café, 2 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore. Tickets $12-$15, available at Melodiescafe.com.