The new documentary Off & On Broadway follows The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players around New York to a handful of their shows and through a few days in their lives. The accompanying press release describes the Trachtenburgs' music as "quirky, indie pop songs in the key of unironic good, clean fun."
Unironic? We'll see about that.
For those who missed the buzz surrounding the 2001 release of their first record, Vintage Slide Collections from Seattle, Vol. 1, the Trachtenburgs are, in fact, a family. Jason, the father, sings and plays guitar. His wife, Tina, operates a slide projector and provides backing vocals, while their daughter, 12-year-old Rachel, plays the drums.
The slideshows ... assembled from collections the family purchases at estate sales ... are projected behind the band as they play, and provide the material for Jason's often literal songwriting (as on the album's opening track, "Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959"). The band's poppy sound ranges from a tad sloppy to the polished sheen of They Might Be Giants ... a group to which the Trachtenburgs are often compared.
The documentary, among other things, shows the band at work writing songs. They painstakingly arrange the slides into a cohesive narrative that not only tells a story, but becomes infused with The Family's take on politics and consumerism. With each added layer of complexity, the songs take on far more meaning than some long-forgotten family vacation. Their intended meaning is far different than their apparent meaning.
And that, my friend, is the definition of irony. Trust me, I looked it up.