Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Music Library: Luxuriator, Lyle Lovett, Lyrics Born

Luxuriator - "Green Tennis Visor"/"Sheila" (2009) and "What's The Theme, Gary" (also 2009).  Led by Stacey Friedman and featuring members of the Distant Seconds, Luxuriator plays witty, sharply observed songs with a definite nod to Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe.  Excellent, promising, fun music.  "Green Tennis Visor" is a character portrait of an insecure young starlet readying herself to be chewed up by LA.  "Sheila" mocks the pretentious title character from the perspective of the peer group trying to hold her back.  "What's The Theme, Gary" is a love song for Gary Dickerson's Self-Help Radio show.  The first two have a lyrical feel that is almost Raymond Carver-ish in their refusal to judge or draw conclusions.  Or Grace Paley-ish, because as the Austin Chronicle wants to remind us (in a review that is as lazy as it is incomprehensible), Luxuriator is led by a lady and lady can only remind certain reviewers of other ladies.  Or, in the case of the Chronicle review, all other ladies.

Lyle Lovett - Lyle Lovett (1986), Pontiac (1987), Lyle Lovett And His Large Band (1989), Joshua Judges Ruth (1992), I Love Everybody (1994), and The Road To Ensenada (1996).  It must be strange to be as much of an oddball as Lovett apparently is and to have some widespread mainstream success all the same.  It helps that he marries his sometimes too-sharp observations to some of the friendliest music that country can offer.  The self-titled debut is okay but marred by an overly-dated production.  Pontiac has far better production and an unblinking and nonjudgmental gaze at its subject matter that presages Lovett's later involvement in Robert Altman's films.  Large Band brings some friendly Western swing into play, and JJR has an appealingly spacey instrumentation.  I Love Everybody lets his freak flag fly, but it's a little overlong.  The Road to Ensenada turns the more individual termite weirdness of the prior album into white elephant quirk.  There's not enough Lovett in the songs, but a lot of "hey, we're just wacky down here in Texas" sort of pandering, and it's pretty ugly.  It's also where I got off the Lovett train.  I've never heard any albums past this one.

Lyrics Born - Later That Day (2003) and Same !@#$ Different Day (2005).  As the lower voice in Latyrx (the higher one is Lateef The Truthspeaker), Lyrics Born has a voice that seems to drawl until he hits a sudden shift into high gear and combines sung pitch into his flow.  Later That Day has a great, good-time funk feel that nods to George Clinton more than once (which isn't unusual for a hip-hop album, I suppose, but there's a lot more of Clinton's space-funk aesthetic here than on, say, an NWA album).  Same !@#$ is essentially a remix of Later That Day with a number of talented producers like Dan The Automator and DJ Shadow (and alternate mixes by Lyrics Born himself), and it's pretty damn great.


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