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The Proper Nouns


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Matt Ogborn, songwriter and vocalist of the Proper Nouns, just wasn’t made for these times. Being an anachronism was also a charge leveled at the Cusacks, Phil Francis, Dave Gibson and Travis Kokas’ underappreciated late-’90s answer to the Archies.

Call it kismet, because the eventual marriage of these like-minded lads has resulted in one of the city’s finest studies in bittersweet melody and crunchy mod workouts, the Proper Nouns’ debut Birds and Butterflies (Columbus Discount).

The four combine the best of both worlds. Ogborn’s anglophile fetish recalls everything from the quirky turns of XTC on the regal “Shape-Shifter” to the exaggerated drama of the Smiths on “My Beautiful Wickedness.” But it’s been seamlessly welded to the rambunctious basement racket of a power trio, giving it a swift kick of bubbling organs, spastic drumming and harmonies.

But Birds and Butterflies is truly Ogborn’s baby, and that artistry shows during more morose moments. “A Melancholy Song” is simply him and his ukulele crooning with a post-grad tongue and “A Sentimental Tone,” a song about systems (and relationships) failing, could be his motto.

It would be easy to imagine him as a proper English gentleman but, as Ogborn explains, that’s a misconception that comes with his articulated approach.

“I think that sometimes when singers are accused of singing with a British accent, they’re just enunciating. Lots of American-style rock singing is very slurred and rough. Nothing wrong with that, but I like enunciating. The words are pretty important to me, so I want to sing them as clearly as possible.”

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