What makes Mostly Other People Do the Killing so damn funny? They do their homework, they really know their source material and they can spot a cliche a mile away. Over the course of their dozen-album career, the world’s most consistently amusing jazz band have pilloried styles from hot 20s swing to post-Ornette obsessiveness. They also did a pretty much note-for-note recreation of Kind of Blue (that was their “serious” album). Their latest release, Loafer’s Hollow – streaming at Spotify – lampoons 1930s swing, Count Basie in particular. There’s an additional layer of satire here: ostensibly each track salutes a novelist, among them Vonnegut, Pynchon, Joyce, Cormac McCarthy and David Foster Wallace. The band return to their favorite Brooklyn haunt, Shapeshifter Lab on June 29 at around 8:15, with an opening duo set at 7 from their pianist Ron Stabinsky with adventurous baritone saxophonist Charles Evans. Cover is $10.
The band keeps growing. This time out the three remaining original members – bassist Moppa Elliott, multi-saxophonist Jon Irabagon and drummer Kevin Shea – join forces with Stabinsky, banjo player Brandon Seabrook, trombonist Dave Taylor and Sexmob trumpeter/bandeader Steven Bernstein, an obvious choice for these merry pranksters.
This is a cautionary tale, one negative example after another. Respect for bandmates’ space? Appropriateness of intros, lead-ins, choice of places to solo or finish one? Huh? For anyone who’s ever wanted to take their instrument and smash it over the head of an egocentric bandmate, this is joyous revenge. It also happens to be a long launching pad for every band member’s extended technique: theses guys get sounds that nobody’s supposed to.
It’s not easy to explain these songs without giving away the jokes. Let’s say the satire is somewhat muted on the first track, at least when it comes to what Seabrook is up to, Bernstein on the other hand being his usual self.
Honey Hole – a droll ballad, duh – is where the horns bust out their mutes, along with the first of the chaotic breakdowns the band are known for. Can anybody in this crew croon a little? We could really use a “Oh, dawwwwling” right about here.
A strutting midtempo number, Bloomsburg (For James Joyce) takes the mute buffoonery to Spike Jones levels. Kilgore (For Kurt Vonnegut) its where the band drops all pretense of keeping a straight face, from the cartoonish noir of the intro (Seabrook’s the instigator) to the bridge (not clear who’s who – it’s too much), to Stabinsky’s player piano gone berserk.
Stabinsky’s enigmatic, Messiaenic solo intro for Mason & Dixon (For Thomas Pynchon) is no less gorgeous for being completely un-idiomatic; later on, the band goes into another completely different idiom that’s just plain brutally funny. Likewise, Seabrook’s mosquito picking and Taylor’s long, lyrical solo in Meridian (For Cormac McCarthy) are attractive despite themselves. Maybe that’s the point – Blood Meridian’s a grim story.
The band returns to a more subtle satire – such that it exists here – with Glen Riddle (For David Foster Wallace), in many respects a doppelganger with the album’s opening track. They wind it up with Five (Corners, Points, Forks), which gives the gasface to Louis Armstrong – and reminds how many other genres other than jazz this band loves to spoof. As usual, there are tons of quotes from tunes both iconic and obscure: this is the rare album of funny songs that stands up to repeated listening.
Not to be a bad influence, but these catchy, jaunty tunes reaffirm that if the band really wanted, they could just edit out the jokes and then they’d be able to get a gig at any respectable swing dance hall in the world Another fun fact: this album was originally titled Library (all MOPDtK albums are named after towns in Elliott’s native Pennsylvania). In researching the area, Elliott discovered that before it was Library, it was Loafer’s Hollow. The more things change, right?
Tattoo Money is one of the funniest acts in New York. And he’s as talented as he is funny, a one-man band equally adept at Chicago blues, psychedelic funk, oldschool soul and hip-hop. He’s like the missing link between Stevie Wonder, Buddy Guy and Rudy Ray Moore. This blog discovered him by accident, basically, late one night last December, when he headlined the Mercury Lounge after a harrowing set by art-rockers the Bright Smoke. It was after midnight, on a work night, but a friend was persuasive: “You should stick around for this guy, he’s hilarious.” No joke.
What Tattoo Money plays is loopmusic, more or less, which requires split-second timing and is even harder to pull off when you’re hitting the audience with one side-splitting one-liner after another. The multi-instrumentalist really worked up a sweat shifting from his guitar, to an electric piano, to his huge array of loop pedals and a mixing board, evoking sounds as diverse as vintage P-Funk, Isaac Hayes at his trippiest, or Fitty in a together, lucid moment (that last one is a bit of a stretch, but just imagine…).
Tattoo Money’s shtick is that he lays down a riff, or a vamp, or a beat, then sings over it, firing off some of the most amusing, sometimes X-rated between-song banter of any artist in town. Most of it has to do with the battle of the sexes. Midway through his set, he let down his guard. “When it comes down to it, what my songs are about is being single in New York, and waking up the next day, and thinking, I did WHAT last night?” he mused. And he kept the crowd in the house, no small achievement on a cold December night when the trains were a mess like they always are and everybody just wanted to get home. His next gig is at the Way Station on July 8 at 10, followed at 11 by hotshot bassist Dawn Drake and Zapote playing their original high-energy, latin and Indian-tinged funk sounds. If there’s anybody who can get the yakking crowd at the bar at that place to pipe down and listen, it’s this guy.
The Bright Smoke are at the small room at the Rockwood on July 28 at 7 PM as a warmup for their upcoming national tour. A year ago, the group was a haphazardly haunting vehicle for frontwoman/guitarist Mia Wilson’s grimly sardonic, enigmatic narratives about hanging on by one’s fingernails, emotionally and otherwise. Watching them make the transformation into an incredibly tight, dynamic rock band, without compromising the blend of deep, otherworldy blues and enveloping, misterioso, psychedelic atmospherics that made them so captivating in the first place, has been inspiring, to say the least. They might be the best band in New York right now.
Wilson’s elegantly fingerpicked, reverberating guitar spirals built a ominous grey-sky ambience for guitarist Quincy Ledbetter to shoot thunderbolts from. As usual, he kept his solos short, other than one, long, crescendoing trail of sparks that brought one of the set’s later number to a volcanic peak. Drummer Karl Thomas had the challenge of playing in sync with the raindroplets emanating from Yuki Maekawa Ledbetter’s laptop, but with his clustering, unpredictable, jazz-inspired attack, he was as much colorist as timekeeper.
And Wilson has never been so much of a force out in front of the band, holding her ground like a female version of a young, pre-epilepsy Ian Curtis through the crushingly cynical lines of On 10, the bitter gentrification-era allusions of Hard Pander (does the current climate of conspicuous consumption overkill make us all whores?), and a starkly stinging, plaintive new minor-key ballad. They closed with a witheringly intense take of an older song from Wilson’s days fronting another first-class dark art-rock act, the French Exit, the bandleader leaving her feet as the song exploded in a boom of low register sonics at the end, rocking back and forth on her knees and channeling what seemed like a lifetime of pain. And injuring herself in the process (not to worry, she was pretty much ok after the show).
Or maybe that last observation is just projecting, from an audience point of view. Go and decide for yourself: if you have the guts to try it, you can get much closer to the band at the Rockwood than you can at the Mercury.
7horse play party music that’s not stupid. You might know them from their huge youtube hit, A Friend in Weed. The LA duo have an irrepressible, sardonic sense of humor and a much bigger sound than you’d expect from just a two-piece: big, burning, distorted guitars and an equally epic drum sound. Phil Leavitt sings with a brash but honest, unaffected delivery; guitarist Joie Calio layers his tracks for stadium heft and bulk. Their latest album Living in a Bitch of a World isn’t out yet, but they’ll be playing plenty of it at their show at 9 PM on April 15 at Bowery Electric. Cover is $10
It opens with the title track, a catchy, cynical midtempo number that’s part Dolls, part mid-70s Lou Reed: “Spending quality time with people I hate,” Leavitt complains. Two Stroke Machine – a motorcycle reference – has a four-on-the-floor Mellencamp thump and tasty layers of jangly Rickenbacker guitar, a wry tale about the hard life of a smalltime weed dealer.
The funniest track is their cover of the BeeGees’ Stayin’ Alive, reinvented as a stoner boogie. What might be funniest is that you can actually understand the lyrics, which are pretty awful. Leavitt stays down in his range rather than reaching for Barry Gibb’s helium highs. Dutch Treat isn’t as successful: the joke of a couple of white dudes doing a halfhearted spoof of putrid corporate hip-hop wears thin fast.
One Week is another boogie, a teens update on ZZ Top. 400 Miles from Flagstaff brings back the meat-and-potatoes highway rock, followed by the Stonesy, slide guitar-fueled Liver Damage Victims. Then they go back to heavy-lidded boogie with Answer the Bell: “The light in your eyes is making you sick,” Leavitt bellows knowingly.
Stick to the Myth is a real surprise, a brooding, minor-key kiss-off anthem, and it’s the best song on the album. They keep the low-key simmer going with Drift, a slow, pensive 6/8 stoner blues. The album winds up with She’s So Rock n Roll, an irresistibly spot-on parody of early 70s glam. For now, til the new record’s out, you can get a full-length immersion in what they sound like with their more roughhewn, gutter blues-oriented previous album, Songs for a Voodoo Wedding, streaming at Spotify.
The Dan Band are best known for their assaultively fun live shows. Frontman Dan Finnerty kickstarted his career as a Hollywood actor as the foul-mouthed wedding singer in the film Old School, and has managed to take that shtick on tour for the better part of the past few years. What’s even more surprising is how much of a clamor there’s been for the Dan Band to play their smutty top 40 covers and parodies at actual weddings. To satisfy that demand, the band decided to put out their Wedding Album. For those who want a taste of Finnerty’s legendary stage antics, they’re playing the album release show at Joe’s Pub at 9:30 PM on July 11; cover is $22. Caveat: you might think twice before you sit close to the stage.
Finnerty’s no dummy. In an age where what was considered the mainstream imploded years ago, he sticks to some of the easiest targets from the past forty years, most of them from many years ago. Which makes sense: the people who grew up on radio and actually know these songs are getting old. And assuming that there is a crowd who know their cheeseball arcana, Finnerty chooses to open the album with an Air Supply number, duetting with Nicole Scherzinger. Who the hell is Nicole Scherzinger, you ask? Turns out that she’s a bit-part actress best known for her role in a liposuctioned-and-siliconed lipsync troupe, the Pussycat Dolls, about ten years ago. The song? Remarkably true to the original save for a few judiciously placed f-bombs.
One of Finnerty’s signature shticks is drunken fratboy ebonics, and he brings those front and center on a pair of schlocky old 90s “R&B” hits as well as one of 50 Cent’s more crass numbers. The joke with a couple of Beyonce songs is that Finnerty completely whitewashes them. One he does as hair-metal, revealing it for the crass, corporate caucasian commercial jingle it is. He and his competent if purposefully generic band do the other as singsongey Fall Out Boy emo-pop, a caustically spot-on illustration of how cynically corporate songwriters-for-hire construct their ditties.
The funniest numbers here are all Finnerty originals. Do It 2Night is a predictable mashup of familiar 80s new wave-tinged funk cliches, right down to the the tinny production, cheap synths and obligatory lame hip-hop bridge – which is where it gets LMAO. Three Way, a faux-sensitive Damien Rice-style ballad written with a guy from one of the kind of top 40 bands that Finnerty harshes on at his harshest, is even better, and politically incorrect to the extreme.
I Can’t Believe I Love You features Train, who in case you weren’t in gradeschool in the 90s, you probably missed; like Do It 2Night, it gets funny when you least expect it. Making Love Forever is a droll hair-metal duet with comedienne Bridget Everett, who makes an especially good choice as a partner since her voice is so similar to Finnerty’s, and it’s hard to tell who’s singing what. The album ends with a synthy version of a strong contender for the worst song ever written – at least until the Disney autotune era – Total Eclipse of the Heart. If you’re actually thinking of using this at a wedding, spin it early before everybody’s completely in the bag and oblivious to Finnerty’s surprisingly subtle and acerbic satire. It wouldn’t be fair to spoil all the jokes here, but if you’re paying attention, most of these songs are about breaking up: just the thing you want to celebrate a marriage with, right? Taken on its own twisted merits, this album ranks with Weird Al Yankovic – and Meatloaf.
Moving right along through the virtual stack until it’s finally done. Today is two catchy ones and one funny one.
Kin Ship’s Golden Dust is gorgeously jangly, clanging Byrdsy powerpop (soundcloud).
Sam Kogon’s Wake Up Your Kids/Sleeping Beauty has a soaring chamber pop A-side; the B-side is a trippy, waltzing Zombies-esque psych-pop tune with teens production values (bandcamp).
And Michael and Mardie’s Douchebag at the Bar is one of those songs that needed to be written: it’s a good thing these two did.
Forget any disinformation you may have heard about Amanda Palmer being a dork or a loser – especially if that disinformation came from her. She’s made a small fortune pandering to that crowd. But she’s not one of them. Her husband outed her. There was a moment when they were on tour, as novelist Neil Gaiman tells it on their new triple live album, where he explains to his new bride that he’s reticent to read a piece onstage which he thinks might not be up to snuff. Her response is not to worry, that even if it’s horrible, the crowd will love it anyway. Amanda Fucking Cynical Palmer? Oooooooh yeah.
On one hand, Palmer is punker than punk. Even though she’s surrounded by Republicans – or at least kids who will ditch their animal onesies and Dan Deacon playlists for McMansions the minute their trust funds kick in – she doesn’t shy away from important issues and plays wherever there are Occupiers. She’s a strong woman whose feminism informs her music without making it strident. She’s an eclectic tunesmith, a talented multi-instrumentalist and can be a riveting performer.
Yet Palmer can also be more indie than indie. Some of her recent songs, especially the ukulele numbers, have the carefully contrived ineptitude and preciousness that define indie rock. The backstory is that Palmer has been fighting her way through a creative dry spell, all the while needing to keep product rolling out in order to pay the bills. “Why should we worry when someone intelligent wants to write pop music, when there’s so much other shit wrong?” she protests, in that uke song that you may have heard (which, as she explains on the album, she wrote as a blog response since she was too hungover to come up with anything more coherent that particular morning). The answer to her question is that someone intelligent should be finding ways to fix all the shit that’s wrong instead of wasting their talent writing schlock. Palmer, being acutely self-aware, knows that better than anyone.
So in case you might assume that the An Evening with Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman – streaming all the way through at Bandcamp -would be couplecore, it’s not. This isn’t greedy narcissists on the road selling overpriced meet-and-greets to their most clueless fans and then phoning in some half-baked bullshit. The two deliver. Part intimate chamber pop, part noir cabaret, part spoken word with lots of sardonic banter, the performances are surreal, sometimes haphazard, sometimes wickedly focused and ultimately a lot of fun.
Gaiman is the surprise star here. He’s not much of a poet and, by his own admission, not much of a singer either but he can wind a yarn with the best of them, and gives Palmer a run for her money on a handful of the more vaudevillian numbers. The best of those are a delicious cover of Leon Payne’s country classic Psycho (which the audience clearly doesn’t know) and a couple of similarly morbid, Irish-flavored ballads which are closer to Tom Lehrer than Nick Cave. And Gaiman’s stories are too good to spoil. He shows off his talent for evoking a specific milieu – a dreary British seaside town – on the ghost story that opens the album and follows that with a creepily hilarious tale about a stalker, an account of murder among Fourth Century religious nuts on the isle of Iona, and a snarky Hollywood insider-style account of Oscar night. He and Palmer have a lot in common: the gallows humor that fuels so much of their work, their theatrical side, their storytelling, their knack for finding the devil in the details. They make a good team.
Palmer splits her time between uke and piano. Gaiman’s droll delivery versus Palmer’s deadpan iciness on their cover of Making Whoopee is priceless, and reminds of Lorraine Leckie‘s recent collaborations with Anthony Haden-Guest. The uke-reggae nudist anthem Map of Tasmania (Australian slang for pussy) inspires a lusty audience singalong. Palmer joins with guest Jason Webley in a devious look back at driving her tourmates nuts in an overheated bus, celebrates her release from record label hell, and ends the album with a tight, defiant version of her antiwar/antiviolence classic Ukulele Anthem.
But her more subdued songs are the knockouts. Dear Old House is Palmer’s requiem for her childhood home, now sold, presumably, to yuppies with a kid who will festoon Palmer’s old room with Miley Cyrus posters. The piano cabaret song I Want You but I Don’t Need You is just as creepy as it is wryly funny, while the muted waltz Look Mummy No Hands is sort of Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle but with the roles reversed. And her solo uke version of Death Cab for Cutie’s I Will Follow You into the Dark – dedicated to Ashlie Gough, who died at 23 at Occupy Vancouver – makes an aptly tender, haunting elegy.
As you would figure with such a talky album, there’s some TMI here – that seems to be the price Palmer is willing to pay to keep the crowdsourcing pipeline going, even as it gives the haters something to hate on. Is there anybody in the Palmer cult (or the Gaiman cult, for that mattter) who doesn’t already have their autographed and lipstick-kissed copies already? Probably not. But if only the haters could hear this, they’d realize the fun they’ve been missing.
It’s an unseasonably gorgeous Thursday night over by the water in Hell’s Kitchen. By 8 PM, the tables at swanky triplex venue Stage 48 are mostly full. There are two distinct, and separate crowds here to see the Dan Band: one young, loud, starstruck and very El Lay, the other older, beefy, New Jersey. Loud rock standards play over the PA. A gaggle of drunken Jersey tiara witches, screaming and whistling, totters on six-inch heels to the second level The stage crew test the smoke machine: it’s working. By around twenty after eight, a club employee takes the stage and offers a couple of drink tickets as a prize for imitating the character Alan from the movie The Hangover. This is starting to feel more and more like spring break. On the other hand, who can blame the half-dozen sheepish contestants – drinks here are expensive.
The Dan Band take the stage about forty-five minutes late. The bassist kills his first beer before the show starts: he’ll be mostly inaudible throughout the set. The drummer keeps things simple; it becomes obvious that there’s a lot more music on the laptop manipulated by the guitarist. – who turns out to be a solid, eclectic rock player – than is being played by the band. But they’re not who the crowd came to see.
Frontman Dan Finnerty first achieved notoriety for his role as the pottymouth wedding singer in the film Old School, leading to similar roles in the Todd Phillips movies Starsky and Hutch and The Hangover (which explains the pre-show contest). He’s wearing a backwards baseball cap, baggy pants, sneakers, a gas station attendant shirt with “Dan” on the nametag and a blue t-shirt underneath. The hat stays on for the whole show. He’s flanked by a duo of backup singers dressed in identical dorky thick-frame glasses and matching brown suits: the two guys look as if they could be twins but as it turns out they’re not. They’re both good singers, and Finnerty isn’t bad himself. But he’s not there to hit the notes: he’s there to skewer a whole lot of cheeseball pop songs, most of them from the past decade or so.
They open with a recent top 40 medley, doing it completely straight-up, which isn’t funny at all. They sound like an awful Long Island wedding band. Then they launch into an Abba medley and start to have some fun. A lot of this band’s shtick is pretty obvious: the guys singing songs written for women, white men struggling with the ebonics of hip-hop, the stage moves and the gang signs. But they have their American Idol parody down cold: the phony, simpering energy, the ridiculous boy-band choreography, the equally ridiculous props. The music may be corporate putrid, but the esthetic is pure oldschool punk rock. Finnerty’s contempt for the schlocky tunes is surpassed only by his contempt for the audience. His standup shtick is oldschool, Don Rickles doing Vegas, going into the crowd and ragging on random customers. Two girls enjoying a night out are singled out as lesbians; Finnerty hits on women who’re clearly with other guys, steals a dollar bill off someone’s table and uses it as a sweatrag. Later in the set, a drunk girl wearing a hat festooned what appear to be two illuminated, red plastic penises arrives at the edge of the stage and becomes a favorite target.
What Finnerty likes to spoof most is “R&B,” i.e. corporate pop sung by black people or white people imitating a black accent. And he could actually pull it off if he wanted to, it seems. But the joke is that he’s phoning it in – he doesn’t even try to stay on key, pepppering the lyrics with random obscenities. The big faux-sensitive crescendos get a predictable but irresistibly amusing over-the-top treatment. The backup guys’ stage moves are just as over-the-top: are they making fun of top 40 music videos, maybe?
As the show goes on, it becomes clear that Finnerty is phoning in not only the vocals but the standup: by the time he’s been up there a half an hour, he’s pretty much given up on assaulting the audience. Half the time, he’s got a bewildered smirk on his face, as if to say, I can’t believe I’m doing this at all, let alone getting paid a little something for it. And the crowd loves it! They don’t seem to be in on the joke, that they could see the exact same thing for a lot less at a karaoke bar or a show by a high school cover band.
Finnerty brings the performance to a climax with arguably the ultimate cheeseball power ballad, Total Eclipse of the Heart and then a mashup of the theme songs from Flashdance and Fame. He saves his best and most graphically obscene gesture for the end – a water bottle is involved – and gets called back for a couple of encores. On one hand, this band’s basic jokes get old fast, and the music, from the hip-hop to the dance-pop and occasional elevator-music ballad, reminds how nauseatingly cliched corporate pop has become over the past twenty years: after awhile, all the songs literally sound the same, with the same mechanical beat and phony hip-hop bridge. On the other, you have to love a guy who’s been able to make some money satirizing something he detests to this extreme, along with the people who, if they don’t love Finnerty’s source material, are at least familiar with it to the point where they know some of the words. The Dan Band have a monthly residency at Stage 48 if you feel like sharing Finnerty’s contempt. Just don’t sit too close to the stage.
Avi Fox-Rosen is on a mission to put out the best album of the year – or the twelve best albums of the year. His conceptual album-a-month project, one of the most ambitious jobs anyone in the rock world has taken on lately, doesn’t seem in any danger of slowing down. His initial release in the series got a thumbs-up here back in January and since then the albums have only gotten stronger. Other bands have famously released humungous amounts of music on a single album, or over a short period of time, but by comparison to Fox-Rosen, they’re all cheaters. Most of the songs on the Magnetic Fields’ hundred-song album are about a minute long and three chords at best; Vole’s hundred-song album, the first of its kind, saw them adding their own lyrics to other people’s music (i.e. turning the Clash’s Safe European Home into Greenpoint Pet Food Store).
Fox-Rosen, on the other hand, writes intricately and lyrically in a whole slew of styles, from funk, to oldtimey swing, to snarkily satirical powerpop, to all kinds of art-rock, some of it with pensive shades of the klezmer music he’s immersed himself in over the past few years. If he keeps this project up for the rest of the year, there won’t be another artist in the world who’ll be able to keep pace. Nor has this blog been able to keep up with him. So this is a long overdue look at what he’s been putting out, all as name-your-price releases at his Bandcamp page.
More than anything, Fox-Rosen’s songs are funny. As a guy who makes a living playing guitar – and also plays in Yiddish Princess, who do hair-metal versions of old Jewish songs – he’s learned a vast supply of cheesy riffs and sprinkles them with surprisingly good taste throughout his songs for plenty of laughs. He’s big on satire. The funniest of all the songs on the five albums he’s put out since February is on April’s album (the best of the bunch so far), a spot-on spoof of phony-sensitive Counting Crows style janglerock. The song is titled Plastic Los Angeles: the cynically sentimental lyrics are a hoot, but the music is even funnier. Fox-Rosen not only has the lazy chord voicings down cold, he also has the lazy inflections and amp settings down so cold that you don’t even notice that the song doesn’t have any drums. The rest of that album puts a simmering anger front and center, no surprise since the central theme is stupidity. The other songs include a cruelly hilarious Christian rock parody, an even crueller dis of cluelessly rapt, trendoid web surfers set to fake early 80s disco, a wickedly crude nod to Huey Lewis, a slightly subtler power ballad that references Oasis and a brief spoof of computerized club music.
March’s album is also very funny: it’s about money. Fox-Rosen quotes Hendrix and gets more bombastic from there on the first track, a raised middle finger to an arrogant one-percenter. I Went to College cleverly explores the limited options remaining for a guy with a degree in “esoterica” in the era when “entitlement all came tumbling down,” while All It Takes Is Money alludes to how the world’s oldest profession is a prototype for pretty much every other kind of transaction. Then Fox-Rosen drops the comedy and gets serious with a couple of biting folk-rock anthems: How Sharp Does the Bite Need to Be, a parable of a sleeping village surrounded by wolves, and the bitterly elegant Wish I Could Still Believe.
The theme of May’s album is fairy tales. Jack and the Beanstalk gets retold as a metal spoof, The Emperor’s New Clothes as snarky power ballad parody, the Ugly Duckling as a snarling mix of klezmer, swing and noir cabaret. Fox-Rosen’s take on Rapunzel makes fun of a gentrifier girl in her highrise, while the funniest track, Don’t Let Go, flips the bird to Oprah-esque top 40 ballads from an unexpectedly diabolical point of view.
February’s album takes a jaundiced look at love, “A word you have to say so you don’t hurt the feelings of people who like to say it more than you….love is the biggest pain in your ass,” Fox-Rosen complains. A swinging country shuffle, a pensive art-pop song, a jaunty swing number, a garage rock tune and a creepy carnivalesque take on what the Beatles did with When I’m 64 round it out: it’s the most straightforward of all the albums so far.
This month’s album is about teen angst, and once again Fox-Rosen is heavy on the parody. Second-generation Chuck Berry by bands like Rockpile, Henry Mancini-style boudoir pop and 80s synth-pop each get a good spoof, followed by an unexpectedly serious, Beatlesque folk-pop song and a sexy new wave tune titled Cyanide. This time around, Fox-Rosen takes teenage lyrics by Heather Warfel Sandler, Leah Koenig and Sarah Zarrow and sets them to music for the final three tracks. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see what he has in mind for July. Throughout the series, Fox-Rosen plays most of the stringed instruments – guitars, bass and mandolin as well as keys – with contributions from several drummers as well as Michael Winograd and Dave Melton on keys plus Patrick Farrell on accordion and Alec Spiegelman adding some excellent clarinet and sax on the June edition.