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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

A Spectacular Halloween Album If You Still Want to Stay Spooky

Image from Spotify

Are you tired of “Thriller” and the “Ghostbusters” theme being the only Halloween songs in your catalog? Does your inner soul yearn for spooky stories told under nightfall behind punchy New Wave synths? If you do, this album may just be for you! 

Lemon Demon is a musical project/band headlined by Neil Cicierega, a bit of a niche internet celebrity. The spotlight is rarely on this multimedia creator from Boston, but I’m sure many people are unaware that they are aware of him. His early work consists of projects such as the “Potter Puppet Pals” web series and “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny” — nuggets of early internet culture that many people can reference by heart and probably balk if you asked who made them.  

As for Lemon Demon itself, its biggest buzz was probably the 2014 Extended Play “Nature Tapes,” which gave us such heavily-memed songs as “Brodyquest” or “Two Trucks.” To me though, Lemon Demon’s magnum opus was and will forever be this delightful album. 

Before we dig deep into the tracks, I feel as though I should preface this with a warning. “Spirit Phone” is extremely nerdy. If the synth and New Wave style, exaggerated storytelling, and Cicierega’s whiny and kind of untrained voice tells you anything, it’s that sharing this stuff to other people is a little embarrassing. However, I do think it’s still a project to be respected. 

Nerdiness can turn many people away from a project, and consequently there are many ‘nerds’ out there who act elitist and jerky over their interests. In this album though, I feel like Cicierega has struck a good balance between obsession and awareness. Not once in this album did I feel as though Cicierega was angrily trying to make me take the album seriously.  

It was more like he realized the ridiculousness of the album’s concept and decided to have fun with it! Even the more somber tracks were able to elicit real, grounded emotions in me that helped it stick way past a cursory listen. So, if you’re still willing to give the project a chance, I invite you to answer the call of the “Spirit Phone.” 

In my mind, this album is built upon two central themes: spooky stories to tell in the dark and capitalism sucks — we’re all doomed. 

The first nine songs mostly focus on the first theme, while the rest deal more with the latter, which is not exactly groundbreaking album construction, I admit. What sets this album apart, in my opinion, are the unique ways through which Cicierega can weave storytelling and instrumentation to speak about such themes.   

He begins the album with “Lifetime Achievement Award,” a sort of synth rock banger. Narratively, this song pulls from both themes pretty well. Dead celebrities are being resurrected by music companies in order to make more money, their new leases on life being in their own way a “Lifetime Achievement Award” — dark stuff.  

Local man calls into local radio and rants about conspiracies in “Touch-Tone Telephone”! It’s a crazy concept, but don’t tell me the sharp strings and high tempo don’t drag you right in. The phone ring leading into the final chorus and the dreamy synth notes melting into space are also great, making this arguably the biggest song from this album, for good reason. 

There’s more of an 8-bit style sound with “Cabinet Man,” and it makes sense. It tells the story of an arcade maintenance worker who somehow fused together with an arcade machine. They live through the highs of being adored and the lows of being abandoned and destroyed.  

If you’ve ever loved someone so much that you’d want to end the world for them, “No Eyed Girl” is the track for you. It’s kind of par for the course when your love interest is an Eldritch Being. The tune has its charm, despite being one of the slower tracks on this album. 

“When He Died” is yet another song about the world ending! This time, a man’s death is what caused it — the jerk. The track has always had a special place in my heart, for both the organ and the few strums of bass that lead us into the final chorus. 

Whatever that sound is to start “Sweet Bod,” it never leaves, and I love it. A choppy, danceable beat introduces us to someone wanting to sell honey-covered mummies as medicine. But don’t worry — it isn’t sexual! The fact that Cicierega has to insist upon it several times is totally not suspicious. 

Did you know there was apparently a talking mongoose named Gef in the 1930s? Some of the lyrics in “Eighth Wonder” are apparently word-for-word what he told the family. That aside, Cicierega’s self-aggrandizing tone throughout this song is such a delight to come back to — it sells the idea of this being Gef’s manifesto very well. 

“Ancient Aliens” is probably my least favorite out of all the first nine tracks. It’s very vague about the story, but as long as Cicierega whines out his lines behind a few guitars and synths, I’m cool with it. 

The best love song made about an incorporeal man is “Soft Fuzzy Man.” That’s it — next song.  

An odd song thrown into the mix, “As Your Father I Expressly Forbid It” doesn’t really take from both of our established themes, so it acts as a transition. The guitar and synth line hits hard in this one, but the lyrics are goofy enough to undercut it. 

 “I Earn My Life” is a song squarely encompassing the second theme, if the line “I’m standing on a chair because I earn my life” means what I think it does. The production feels noticeably stripped back, but it’s honestly a welcomed change. I love songs that juxtapose their upbeat nature with heavy lyrics. 

In “Reaganomics,” he features a sampled speech from former United States President Ronald Reagan, the legend. Cicierega also portrays Reagan in this song, promising free money and a job to this girl if she just takes a ride with him — Reaganomics. That chorus is enough for me; let’s blow it all up! 

“Man Made Object” is kind of weird. From what I can gather, it’s about an obscenely rich person who wants to build an obscenely big structure. Why? Why not! I like the break in the middle of the song, but this is a forgettable tune. 

Life-changing, tear-inducing, somber teardown of a closer, “Spiral of Ants” opines about the endless cycle of work that a lot of people are stuck in and compare it to an ant death spiral. On top of the horns on the outro, there isn’t a part of this song to which I don’t want to bawl my eyes out.  

The bonus tracks mostly consist of demos and reworked instrumentals of songs that made it onto the original list. As for tracks, I recommend “Redesign Your Logo” and highly recommend “You’re At The Party.” These are extremely well produced and probably on the same level as all the other songs. 

All in all, if Lemon Demon can make an album that perfectly encapsulates the Halloween nerdiness that I like to indulge in, then one can only imagine what else it’s capable of. 

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Aaron Dimaya, Staff Writer
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