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True to the post-postmodern hyperreal world of the inner-Web, I hit the Trucks' MySpace page before I'd heard their 2006 self-titled CD (Clickpop). Browsing through their photo pages, I saw toy xylophones, lots of keyboards, underwear on the outside, leg warmers, pigtails, and more stripes than a Quiet Riot promo photo. A brief listen to their posted tracks left me feeling old and arrhythmic. I felt my receding hairline burn, like youth was talking behind my back.
Determined to find the dark lining in even the fluffiest of pink clouds, I kept the disc in heavy rotation while driving. At first it felt like a guilty pleasure infectious synth popdance punk, with a menagerie of female voices singing choruses and cracking wise in concordance with or contradiction to the main vocal line. The issues are put out there on the opening track, "Introduction": "I've been in therapy for five years / I'll be in therapy for five years more," Kristin Allen-Zito sings. (I think it's her three out of four Trucks are credited with vocals.) "I wake up depressed, I wake up manic / You never know what you're gonna get."
Still, as the opening beats of the unequivocal dance jam of the decade, "Titties," come through the speakers, it's hard to feel that there's any kind of subliminal bum-out happening beneath the Peaches-esque query "What makes you think we can fuck just because you put your tongue in my mouth and you twisted my titties, baby?" "Titties" is one of a series of songs touching on the theme of failed relationships and inept lovermen. The poignant indie pop perfection of "Messages" has Allen-Zito serenading an absentee boyfriend whose voice mails are more attentive than he is: "Well, I save all my messages from you / Just in case you're not there / When I want you to be."
A dozen tracks in, the concept of a boyfriend has been jettisoned for the much more accommodating vibrator in "Diddle Bot," which is closer to a lover than any mentioned heretofore: "You made me feel brand new / You love me through and through." The album ends with "Why the ?," an indictment of a beau who's prepared to woo with everything but his tongue, and an a cappella request: "Dear Santa, please don't bring me another boyfriend for Christmas / Oh no! / The last one sucked." Or didn't, as the case may be.
Never do the Trucks jettison humor for histrionics in their tales of love gone awry in the great wet Northwest: the band members, who share songwriting duties, get their point across in a way that transcends merely grinding the storied ax of feminism. Sisters are doing for themselves, sure, but it's not a girls-only joint: everyone's invited to dance their woes away. Thematically, the disc gets heavier than the tales of missed connections and inept sexing. "Shattered" has implications of rape: "You could not keep your pretty hands off me ... You shattered my image of love / While I was naked in the tub." "Man Voice" is call-and-response song play touching on predatory types, with a gothic-baroque feel that resembles Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies meeting Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Finally, "Comeback" tells the tale of love turned obsession turned homicide from a male point of view: "You don't have to run away / I'm gonna kill you anyway."
"It's pretty standard turning pain into comedy, trying to somehow make peace with things that have happened to us or to people that we've known," Allen-Zito says on the phone from Seattle.
Does the fact that their songs are still fun and danceable lead people to dismiss the Trucks as fluff? "That's what I enjoy the most," she explains. "I think it's really great when we play shows and there's a mixture of people in the audience. There'll be dudes who are, like, 'Play the titties song! You guys are hot!' They're obviously not getting the lyrics at all. And then, on the other hand, there's these two feminist friends of mine who are definitely a little overboard. Just seeing them next to these dudes that were just falling over themselves it was hilarious and perfect. This one woman came up to me outside and put her arm around my neck and was, like, 'Kristin, they just don't get it. They don't get it!' It's kind of funny, because maybe she doesn't get it."
And for me, that's what I enjoy most. The fact that you can get it on one level and miss it entirely on another. Free your mind, and your ass will follow. Or, perhaps, free your ass, and your mind will follow. You can have just as much fun missing the point as getting it: the Trucks are simultaneously above your head and below your knees. *
March 24, 9 p.m., $8
1600 17th St., SF