To be perfectly honest, I’m surprised that I even popped this into the stereo to begin with. For starters, there’s the premise: the album’s an “opera” about a kid who can’t tell the difference between reality and Dungeons & Dragons. Which, of course, explains the album cover, which depicts the band’s members dressed up as an elven archer, wizard, and barbarian striking combat poses. But, and I don’t mean this sarcastically or ironically or anything, but Warriors & Warlocks is far more fun than it has any right to be.
Of course, it helps that the band’s tongue is firmly implanted in their cheeks, which makes the genre-hopping (new wave, disco, electroclash, punk, classic rock, lounge, bluegrass, and Lord knows what else) all the more palatable. Same goes for the song titles (e.g., “Sweet 666teen,” “Barbarian Fire Truck,” “Mecha Jesus”). It’s all in goofy fun, for the most part (and let’s face it, even the most ardent Dungeon Master has to admit that D&D can lend itself well to goofy fun).
But even all of the goofiness can’t hide the fact that the Mystechs (who consist of vocalist Nick Dye and vocalist/instrumentalist Emil Hyde, along with various collaborators) are really good at what they do, and the songs that they craft are far better than most folks might be willing to give them credit for. The title track’s lyrics may contain references to crimson dragons, goblins, demons, dungeons, and of course, warriors and warlocks, but it’s still a touching — if clever and quirky — ode to teen alienation. Add to that the vocals of Christine Ingaldson and a keening electric violin, and the song is quite close to the likes of My Favorite.
The vocals “L.Z.L.L.F.N. — A.R.!!!” are distinctly exaggerated and over-the-top, but there’s no denying the music’s mixture of disco and analog pop is downright catchy — and the trumpet is a nice touch. Likewise with “Burned,” a love song whose object is a succubus — but the song’s emotional lounge approach is undeniable. And the violin gives the song a strangely emotional heft — for a song about a succubus, that is.
The album does get a little long past, some of the goofiness and charm wearing off past the halfway point — and while the album’s supposed opera theme doesn’t quite hold up across all of the songs, it seems especially absent in the album’s final songs (such as the innuendo-laced “Football Hero”). If a few songs had been cut, this would’ve been a fantastic EP, but as it stands, it’s still a fun album if you’re looking for something much quirkier and more inventive than most of the indie pop that folks hear about. And that’s true even if you’ve never rolled a set of twenty-sided dice in your life.