All Men Are Mortal: Not Fearful of Happiness

The Jonas Brothers are just another in a long line of cutesy pop bands made up of adorable siblings stretching back past The Jackson 5, The Partridge Family and probably even further than the Von Trapps. In between Hanson in the ’90s and the Jonases today, an Arkansas family by the unfortunate name of Butts also took a shot at the hit parade.

L to R: Jon-Jon, Emily, David and MacCauley.

Their surname clearly being an inappropriate name for their Disney Channel-styled bubblegum pop, the Butts opted for the slightly less inappropriate, though far more ponderous, All Men Are Mortal for a moniker. Why Warner did not insist on a name change is nothing short of baffling but one has to remember long-winded emo bands such as My Chemical Romance, 30 Seconds to Mars and Cute Is What We Aim For were all the rage.

And the name was somewhat fitting as well. All Men Are Mortal were more adventurous musically than sibling pop bands traditionally have been. Oldest brother and accordionist Jon-Jon was the only actual musician in the bunch. To suggest David played the drums would be akin to suggesting a hurricane rearranges trees and lawn furniture guided by the principles of feng shui. Emily‘s approach to the Fischer-Price toy piano is impressive if for nothing other than her endurance and reputation for destroying the instruments in fits of Townshendian rage. The real gem of the quartet is singer MacCauley whose apparent appreciation for Yoko Ono‘s more adventurous work not only belies his age but helps disguise his Tourette’s.

It is little wonder the band quickly became the darlings of the indie-rock press (and the fledgling blogosphere) and spent a summer touring America with Daniel Johnston and Wesley Willis in 2002. Unfortunately, soon after the tour the fickle music press abandoned their interest in borderline savant artists as irony was quickly becoming passé—The Strokes’ sudden success at this time not withstanding.

The above description of All Men Are Mortals might be a little misleading as their music was actually as melodic, soullessly banal and undeniably catchy as you’d expect from the progeny of television jingle writers. Their album Not Fearful of Happiness might have been a little rougher around the edges than their counterparts, but at best it was never more than a guilty pleasure perfect for long drives to the beach.

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