The beauty of Nicholas Urie’s debut CD lies in the details. Excerpts from an Online Dating Service is a marvelous experiment, bolstered by the unique anticipation found in the online dating scene. Urie, just 23 years of age, assembles a large ensemble to tackle the movement of the internet personal advertisement, turning the cultural landscape of internet encounters into profound, evocative poetry.
Leonard Cohen once said that “poetry is just the evidence of your life.” The evidence of life found in online personal ads is compelling, to say the least, and Urie has really stumbled upon a goldmine of lyrical content.
“Those people who take their time writing the ad really manage to say something special about who they are and how they see life,” Urie says.”What initially piqued my interest was the amazing level of vulnerability people are willing to show on the internet.”
With the occasional exception of some word repetition, all of the lyrics found on Excerpts from an Online Dating Service have been taken from internet dating sites. “Each one is an artifact that highlights some aspect of this amazingly specific and highly stylized internet subculture,” Urie says in the liner notes.
Excerpts doesn’t rest on its laurels as a gimmick record. Urie’s compositions give the anonymous words life without mockery or irony, brilliantly weaving legitimate emotion through the language and deepening the all-too-human observations these words reveal.
Anchored by Joe Martin’s bass, Frank Carlberg’s piano, and Michael Calabrese’s drums, Urie’s large ensemble ably tackles the compositions with care.
Vocalist Christine Correa’s sincerity airs out the material, drawing on the raw integrity of the internet personal ads without an ounce of derision or pretention. She is called upon to sing some truly peculiar lyrics and does so freely and beautifully.
“I’m thirty, 6’3, blond hair, blue eyes, in a band – I’m a singer,” she sings on “About Me.” The song’s mischievous gait illuminates the rather terse “lyrics” and Correa’s vocals offer new meaning, exposing a sense of helplessness that may or may not have been intended by the original author.
Urie’s use of soloists is always on point, with Bill McHenry and Jeremy Udden’s saxophone work serving as “replies” to the personal ads and trumpeter John Carlson dropping in an entirely exceptional dynamic. Chris Speed guests on clarinet.
“Wayne” is perhaps the record’s trickiest spot. Correa punches through uncouth lyrics, delivering lines like “If I could just wax that ass just one more time, that’d be phat” and “When I get out I’m gunna fuck you hard as you want” with incredible honesty and intelligibility.
“Cougar Seeks Prey” finds Correa once again assuming another identity, while “Holidaze” spins like a wayward Christmas tune led by Martin’s steady bass.
Excerpts from an Online Dating Service is a compelling work of art. It deepens the dialogue of humanity as it shifts into the technological age, examining the transfer of our base instincts to small blurbs of intent on a website. There is nothing cheap, tawdry, or condescending in Urie’s interpretations and his honest approach is well worth a listen.