The Breakup Society celebrates lower expectations with Nobody Likes a Winner | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Breakup Society celebrates lower expectations with Nobody Likes a Winner

The Breakup Society
Nobody Likes a Winner

If James at 35 was The Breakup Society's breakup concept album, the band's new Get Hip release, Nobody Likes a Winner, seems a dedicated exploration of the cult of failure. But c'mon, it's power pop, how depressing can it get? The answer is, well, plenty. There's the juke-joint of broken dreams that is the jazzy "Lower Expectations," the title track with its observation that "Nobody wants the most popular kid in class to go too far" and the angst of "13th Angry Man." That's just the tip of this 15-song iceberg.

As always, Breakup Society main man Ed Masley sings with a vulnerability that makes all the losers of his songs somehow loveable, and the triumphant wounded. In that sense, the slow-burning "Failure Saved Me From Myself" seems the album's unifying centerpiece, as a clip-clop beat and Beach Boys-style vocals build around the song's central revelation: "I guess I'm not the monster I'd a liked to be / Failure saved me from myself / Now I'm no threat to me."

What seems to fuel the album is the tension between the apathy and retreat of many of the songs, and the perfection and power of the music. Masley knows all the tricks in the power-pop bag, and on this outing, arrangement touches such as trumpet, piano and studio effects add shine to the underpinning guitar-bass-drums.

If I had to pick on anything about Winner, it's that, like Costello's sprawling 1980 set, Get Happy!!, there's almost too much of it -- you get pop-single fatigue. Such is the nature of 2-to-3-minute perfection.

That said, it's well worth sticking around for the final hidden track, a bookend of sorts to James at 35's "Robin Zander." In it, the narrator hears "Layla" on the radio, and reflects on the injustice of Clapton stealing George Harrison's missus, and having a hit song about it -- not once, but twice. A colossal romantic and pop-cultural injustice indeed -- and who better to right such wrongs than The Breakup Society?

The Breakup Society CD Release with The Frampton Brothers and Part Man.10 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave, Strip District. $5. 412-391-8334 or

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