So, you're a decent looking guy or gal, but you're having a little trouble luring members of the opposite sex? You say the closest you can get to accessing your inner Casanova is scented incense and frozen dinners? Well, fear not because, to paraphrase John Kerry, help is on the way for those who strive to be more handsome.
Those urgently in need of assistance can send a check to the Handsonian Institute, and receive a five-DVD series on achieving optimal handsomeness. But if you're slightly less desperate, you can just pick up the second Handsome Boy Modeling School album, White People (out November 9). In addition to sporting some booty-shaking hip-hop, soul and electronic grooves, the disc can help give listeners the pizzazz they need.
"If you put the record on and it makes you want to strut, then that strutting may attract that lady down the block," explained ultra-suave Modeling School co-founder Nathaniel Merriweather, better known as hotshot producer and former Gorillaz member Dan Nakamura. "And then that lady down the block may bring something else on, and before you know it, you're back at the house, you pop on the Oates joint, and the clothes just fly off."
The "Oates joint" Merriweather referred to isn't some newfangled, ginseng-enriched health snack, it's the Handsome Boy Modeling School track "Greatest Mistake," a light-dimming ballad featuring John Oates (of '70s/'80s chart-toppers Hall & Oates), ex-Tarnation frontwoman Paula Frazer and Jaime Cullen. So what's Oates doing in a modern music primer for handsomifacation?
"Oh, come on!" said Modeling School co-founder Chest Rockwell (a.k.a. veteran hip-hop producer Prince Paul). "Oates is one handsome man."
"He was one of the original proponents of the moustache," added Merriweather. "His look far predated the Selleck."
Oates is only one of the celebrity guests on White People. "Saturday Night Live" alums Father Guido Sarducci and Tim Meadows both make spoken-word testimonials to the school, and a host of musicians lend their voices, including the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams, RZA, Linkin Park vocalists Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda, Jack Johnson and De La Soul.
Though not all of the guests were graduates of the Handsonian Institute, they were eager to work with Merriweather and Rockwell, and eagerly participated in the album's unconventional duets (Deftones' singer Chino Moreno doubled up with underground hip-hoppers EL-P and Cage on "The Hours," Bennington and Shinoda joined forces with hip-hop veterans Jazzy Jay and Grand Wizard Theodore on "Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) Part 2"). "We just tossed up the Handsome sign, which is kind of like throwing up the [Batman] signal," Merriweather explained. "The Handsome people are the ones who can see it, and they respond."
The duo's first album, So ... How's Your Girl? was released in 1999 and featured several of the guests that appear on the new LP, along with Beastie Boy Mike D., Sean Lennon, DJ Shadow and legendary MC Biz Markie.
The first single from White People, "The World's Gone Mad" melds electronic beats and playful rapping with sedated rock vocals and a lazy reggae rhythm, and features reggae legend Barrington Levy, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos. "We approached Alex, and it turned out his band was influenced by Dr. Octagon, which I was involved in," Merriweather said, "so he was way into it. And Barrington Levy, he's just the man. So we called him up and of course he was interested, too. People who are handsome just fit in."
"The hard part is choosing who to use for which song," Rockwell said. "But making that choice is kind of like, 'Well, do we take the Rolls Royce or the Bentley today.' "
When Handsome Boy Modeling School enter the studio, the only thing sharper than the Boys' suits is their uncanny ability to manipulate genres to suit their needs. Throughout White People, Merriweather and Rockwell toy with dusky trip-hop ("I've Been Thinking"), blend eerie screamotronica and rap ("The Hours") and fuse classical, hip-hop and rock ("Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip-Hop Like This)").
"The only question we asked ourselves in the studio was, 'Would I want to get dressed to this song?' " Rockwell said. " 'Would I want to make love to this song?' And if it's good, it's like making love with mirrors on the ceiling. You can't beat it."
Having completed an album that's quirky, creative and clever, the only real danger for Handsome Boy Modeling School lies in their presentation. The shtick about the Handsonian Institute is such a major part of their image that their stellar beats and rhythmic hybrids might not be taken as seriously as they deserve to be.
"Plugging the Institute is always a risk," Merriweather agreed. "It's the same problem we have sometimes when we show up at a runway show. The models sometimes get mad because less attention is paid to them because of us. But we can't help it. It's what we're all about."