Los Angeles-based wild card garage rock band NYDTyson (AKA, Neil Young deGrasse Tyson) pulls an ace from its musical sleeve on new EP If You’re So Smart, Why Are You So Sad? The record arrived earlier this December and it’s filled with enthusiastically laid-back (Yes, that’s an oxymoron, but works in this context!) vocals delivering some unvarnished, but spot-on lyrics and relaxed to high-octane energy, depending on the song – and sometimes within the same song.
Shambling, quirky-at-times, lead single “Egg” is case in point as it wanders with a start-stop pace, skittering percussion, and casual vocals before briefly bursting forth with full-on choral vocals and rock instrumentation from band member Nick Campbell. NYDTyson assuredly plays with the quiet/loud and slow/fast dynamics, while tacking on a romping ending that blends all the experimental percussive noises with the bass-driven rock ‘n’ roll blast.
“What Did You Say?” continues the grungy, ramshackle, but energetic, built-in-the-garage vibe, this time tackling the timeworn, yet timeless topic of relationships with lead singer Eric Radloff pretty much turning it inside out by admitting, “Are you even there? / I don’t even care.”
The drum beat and guitar riffs get heavy on garage rock grinder “Neanderthal.” Reminiscent of The Black Keys and Dead Weather, but with harsher lyrics (of bitter recriminations for a past lover) and distorted exclamations, the tune lunges back ‘n’ forth like a lumbering prehistoric monster.
NDYTyson then takes a page from the dreamy, retro-‘70s notebook with “Who Cares”, which floats along on reverberating guitar waves and a flat, measured drum beat. All the while Radloff still delivers bleak lyrics with reflective melodicism including the lines, “When the sky is falling down / and the earth starts caving in / Oh, the ship is sinking now / Who cares?”
And surprisingly, the band ends the EP with a sonically gentle touch, continuing with the watery flow of the previous number. “I Think We Both Knew” rolls by with delicately subdued vocals, wavering guitar and pulled cello lines, ticking drum sticks, and muted drum thumps. The number slowly surges with achingly soaring vocals and a rich instrumental cresting before going quiet. But all is not done quite yet as a kicky beat and electric guitar riff lope along for a spell until the band members exclaim and dissolve into laughter.