There are simpletons like Milli Vanilli, and then there are simpletons like Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, a San Francisco trio whose More Bad Times is the sound of Romper Room transplanted to a ’60s coffeehouse. Using a ukelele, creaky violin, and percussion (a coffee can filled with rice), the band plays low-rent boho-folk, which perfectly suits songs that deal with such vital matters as breaking a tooth on a cheese grater or a girl being killed by a lawn dart (”so they’re now off the shelves at the K Mart,” percussionist Neno Perrotta laments). At times you may want to slap the stereo to knock the cutes out of the band, but in their earnest, faux-naïf way, Ed’s uses this infantile approach to convey simple verities. There’s the lovesick grease monkey of ”New Distributor Cap,” or the narrator of ”Buck Tempo,” who gently pleads, ”I need somebody to make it seem worth it/To search for a light switch or reach for a star.” The title track, set to Carrie Bradley’s Appalachian fiddle, sums up the band’s peculiar charm: The lyrics mourn a spouse’s passing and all the things the couple didn’t get to experience together, like getting gout, accidentally eating aluminum foil, and choking on a chicken bone. You won’t know whether to laugh or cry, but as Ed’s Redeeming Qualities knows, life is never as simple as it seems.
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