It was a long, paranoid middle-school summer when I read George Orwell's Animal Farm for the first time and realized that we people and those pigs were -- gulp -- one and the same. From the look and sound of his most recent musical undertaking, it seems that Geoff Westen has reached the very same conclusion.
Westen is the brains behind the mostly one-man band The Pigs, whose upcoming release, Oink!, is 54 minutes of ham-metaphor-laden power pop. Oink!, however, is no cautionary tale. There's a little pig in all of us, the liner notes read. Be a pig and be proud.
Truth be told, there's a little more to this record than its not-so-subtle thematic content. Beyond its hokey swine jokes, Oink! serves as a showcase for Westen's ability behind the scenes as a producer, utilizing a myriad of hardware and software combinations to create what he calls his "wall of pop" sound.
The album's opener, "Saturday Night," is straightforward power pop that sets the tone. Heavy on the synth bass and chugging, fuzzed-out guitar, Westen drives toward a deliberate and rather formulaic hook in each song, and leads the way with a vocal delivery that ranges from a crooning David Byrne to a hiccupping Mark Mothersbaugh.
The polished, upbeat call-to-party songs, such as "Saturday Night" and "I'm Sick," are the album's strengths when compared to the slower, more forgettable ballads, including "Sweetheart" or "Oh Girl."
The Pigs are the latest incarnation of Westen's nearly 40-year-long on-again/off-again music career, which began in the late-1960s Haight-Ashbury scene in San Francisco. Westen played guitar in The Other Half, a garage band whose single "Mr. Pharmacist" was covered by The Fall, generating notoriety for The Other Half nearly 20 years after its original recording.