But Hanifi's lyrics take center stage. At the Firefly his vocals were appropriately mixed out in front of the music, so we could clearly hear and enjoy wry, tragicomic lines like "Stuck in first, goin' downhill / This is my worst favorite thrill" and "I pictured you a star in my homecoming feat / Naturally in the backseat." And there are extra gems to be discovered from reading the lyrics on the CD insert: clever wordplay like "Ernest Klaun / Sat me down; / I needed some jokes / He's got the most."
The unrecorded songs that the Maypops played at the Firefly were also memorable. "Everything Is Fine" found Hanifi spitting that hook in sardonic syncopation. "Pig (Mr. and Mrs.)," like a number of other Hanifi songs, doesn't end on the tonic chord so it has an unsettled, suspended, not-neatly-wrapped-up-with-a-bow conclusion, perfect for its complex subject matter. "I Want to Call Up the World and Tell It I'm Sorry" uses copy from a box of McCormick hot pepper flakes and a bottle of Jergens hand lotion for its verses. Trust me: it works.
The Maypops, who return to the Firefly on Tuesday, January 24, are working on a new CD, and Hanifi's not even planning to put these songs on it. That's how confident he is of the quality of his other new songs. That bodes well for a long run for this latest act of his.