Avi Fox-Rosen Keeps His Album-a-Month Streak Alive
Avi Fox-Rosen‘s marathon attempt to put out a new album every month isn’t just a stunt: it’s actually produced some of the year’s best music. And it’s been hard to keep up with him. Blink, and he’s got another one up at his Bandcamp page, where they’re all available as name-your-price downloads. Fox-Rosen’s signature traits are humor and good guitar, and often the point where those two intersect: he is unsurpassed as a musical satirist, sort of a ballsier, Brooklyn counterpart to Weird Al Yankovic. Throughout the series, Fox-Rosen plays most of the stringed instruments, with a rotating cast of drummers, keyboardists, occasional strings, horns and harmony singers. As a rule, these songs are catchy, they’ve got intricate, elegant arrangements and sound like real records, not haphazard takes recorded on somebody’s phone. Each album in the series has a theme – in chronological order: getting older, love, money, stupidity (April’s album, the best of the bunch so far), fairy tales and teen angst. Fittingly, July’s theme was nationalism: its title is Amurka.
The opening track, Proud to Be American is bombastic post-Chuck Berry bar band rock set to drummer Chis Berry’s scurrying new wave beat. “Every playground needs a bully, say, why not you and me?” Fox-Rosen inquires. Open Letter to Thomas Jefferson has a snarkily laid-back dixieland brass section of Ben Holmes on trumpet, Ric Becker on trombone and Matt Darriau on reeds. It’s hilarious both as a spoof of the new crop of oldtimey swing bands, and as a swipe upside the head of American exceptionalists who won’t cop to the Founding Fathers’ blind spots.
Movin’ to the Country has more brass and a laid-back 70s hippie-rock Rhodes piano groove – and a caustic lyric that ponders “how will we stay alive surrounded by the rotting remains of what we thought would last” when the best we can do is head for the hills and bury our heads in the sand. The most caustic and darkly funny track here is Doctor: over gentle, pretty folk-rock spiced with Darriau’s calm bass clarinet and Holmes’ bright trumpet, Fox-Rosen coldly sums up the failures of the medical-industrial complex. It’s one of the two or three best songs of this whole series. As is the last track, President Sly (it’s a pun – say it fast). Faux southern rock gives way to a catchy electric piano ballad that sneakily goes into lite FM territory as Fox-Rosen gets the politicians in his crosshairs:
Theatrically staged fights
Diversions from the real task of the day
Jobs, wars, education’s closing doors
The corporate masters make the puppets sway
It’s a performance, just some entertainment
To keep us on our knees
It seems to be working, there’ll be no revolution…
If you think that Fox-Rosen might want a break at this point, you’re right. The August installment suggests comic relief in the form of sex songs. This is his only covers album so far and unfortunately it doesn’t live up to the rest of the pack. Sex joints can be funny and even more fun to spoof, but once you’ve heard Biggie Smalls do Fucking You Tonight, nothing else really compares. This one opens with a Spike Jones-inspired version of the old swing tune Let’s Misbehave and then stalls: you keep waiting for the jokes, but there aren’t any. And if you’ve followed the series, the fact that Fox-Rosen is just as adept at period-perfect early 80s disco as he is at early 60s doo-wop pop is old news. Bookmark his Bandcamp page and check back next month to see what else he has up his sleeve.