Have you ever eaten so many Sweet Tarts or Pixie Sticks that your tongue goes numb and you feel nauseated? You lick your lips and all you taste is sugar. No matter how much water you drink, you can’t rinse that taste out of your mouth. Villa Rosie’s latest album, Everybody Rides, is the Pixie Sticks and Sweet Tarts of the music world, but it takes a much smaller dosage of Villa Rosie to make a listener feel sick.
The sugar-coated voice of Judy Ferrel is pretty – too pretty. When she sings you picture fields of dandelions, cute puppies, tiny babies. The lyrics of most songs are not discernible but you can imagine Ferrel singing about such cuddly images.
“Big Sky,” the fourth track on the album, sounds a little harsher – using a loose definition of the word “harsh” – than the other tracks. The guitar plays a more dominating role and the alto voice of the background singer offsets Ferrel’s high-pitched vocals.
The next track, however, falls right back into the monotonous sweetness. The sing-song beat lulls you into a semi-conscious state. If you can muster the energy, the best move would be to skip ahead to the next track.
“Proud and Pleasing,” starts off more promising than the other songs. Guitarist and keyboard player John Ward also contributes with vocals. The song begins with a percussion and guitar-plucking intro that make you unconsciously tap your toe – the first movement Villa Rosie elicits from you. Then Ward joins in with alluring vocals. After five tracks of nothing but Ferrel’s soft, airy vocals, Ward is a welcomed change. Even when Ferrel chimes in, you almost can handle it. Unfortunately, the song stumbles on its own sappy, childish lyrics.
Things get worse after the almost-bearable “Proud and Pleasing.” The album retreats to highlighting Ferrel’s voice. At times, Ferrel seems to be emulating the sounds of Natalie Merchant, especially in the final track, “Kismet.” But she lacks the passion and excitement that reverberates in Merchant’s music. Instead, Ferrel bores the listener with more of the same sweet music. Her one-faceted voice is bereft of edge or emotion.
The lyrics don’t help things. They’re cheesy, sappy, any of those adjectives that describe the happy-go-lucky lyrics of inexperienced bands. Without a gripping lead vocalist and thought-provoking lyrics, Everybody Rides leaves a bitter sweet taste in your mouth and sick feeling in your stomach. All you can picture is the color pink: bubble gum, hearts, roses, cotton candy and Pepto Bismol.