The great thing about Hanglide Thru Yer Window is that it sounds like it was recorded by a troop of musicians left to run amok in the studio, tinkering with Moogs, odd instruments and antique toys. There’s a shameless, anything-goes sensibility to what the Desoto Reds accomplish, from the bicycle bell kicking off the album and the carnival stomp of “Howells and Jowls” to the “strange old digital synth” percolating throughout “Hot Air Balloon.” But the songs are so empty and full of fey irony that the instrumentation comes off as gimmickry, sonic eclecticism for its own sake. Songs about fantasy affairs with Julia Roberts and rotting leftovers are cute conceits, but that’s about it. Sure, it’s exactly the kind of songwriting out of which They Might Be Giants and Robyn Hitchcock made careers, but while TMBG was often funny and Hitchcock found poignancy in his punning, Hanglide Thru Yer Window rarely finds either real humor or real substance. (The exception is “Heaven,” a lovely, soaring meditation on a place where you “wait for something to do.”)
Perhaps that’s the key to Desoto Reds—take them in small doses, maybe one song at a time, and they’re amusing. The cumulative effect, however, is akin to being stuck in a room with Willy Wonka. What seemed so fascinating and endearing at first quickly begins inducing madness.