Overhead Projector's Underpants on the Ceiling Fan dutifully notes it was "recorded in Durham, N.C. throughout the 21st century." That allows lone constant Projector Rusty Haynes close to seven years to have written, performed and recorded the 13 songs on his loose, pickup band's debut. Because Haynes certainly didn't run out of time on this excellent self-released nod to '90s indie rock figureheads, it's probably not a coincidence that there are exactly 13 tracks here. Haynes doesn't sound like the sort of dude who believes in good luck. He admits, after all, that he was embarrassed as a child when he got dropped off for practice in a wood-paneled station wagon, and he believes that, when the saints went marching in, they ran right into a wall. "Parachute pants and wide-ruled paper/ Left-handed scissors and book covers with kittens on 'em/ Erasable pens and mechanical pencils," he moans via introduction to "School Supplies," optimizing his barely awake vocals, sounding like a kid climbing out of bed with 15 minutes before first period, commiserating his B-list inventory. Did you want to be the kid with the erasable pens?
Indeed, Haynes, dressed for success as he be, is a post-Pavement slacker survivor, more Slanted & Enchanted than Wowee Zowee. On Underpants, he's backed by a lineup that understands the back story and its aesthetic demands, letting Haynes realize his post-adolescent barbs with simple, almost sunny arrangements that come twisted into a cynic's reality through barely incongruous guitar solos and cheap electronic beats. As Malkmus or Merritt would have it, this is a grand rock album disdainful of the last three decades of god-damned grand rock albums.
Haynes barely filters his wit, allowing his deflected aspirations—"I'll be a prince in Daisy Dukes" and "playing piano on the Hindenburg"—to spotlight a dejection that somehow engenders persistence. He's been infected by something or someone named malaria ("I had her in my heart/ I had her in my mind"). He fell in love with the feeling, but now it's gone. Haynes can't stop looking for her. Or there's the girl who vomited on his uniform, or the time he was partying in Memphis with whiskey and long-haired women, having the time of his life—until he got arrested. Haynes—only as bitter as he is funny, tunneling through Brautigan-style slips of consciousness with a passive resistance—constantly sounds just one step away from tossing his hope out of the closed passenger side window, crumpled carelessly in an empty Mountain Dew bottle. Instead, he keeps taking life's gaffes and singing about them, casually plucking gnarls from his guitar and mustering enough wherewithal to find a microphone. If we're lucky, Haynes will keep doing that for a while.