Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Patti Rothberg – Double Standards

Although like a lot of folkies, Patti Rothberg plays under her own name, she’s not one of them. She’s a rocker through and through. This is her greatest shining moment so far, a deliriously catchy collection of fiery powerpop songs that sometimes border on punk. Along with the boost in volume, she’s really taken her songwriting to the next level – ever since her big breakthrough cd Between the 1 and the 9, she’s always had a knack for a juicy hook and a terse, understated double entendre, but this album explodes with them. If Elvis Costello had done an album with the Go Go’s before they imploded and he became Mr. Classical for awhile, this would be it. Musically, it’s a particular triumph for Rothberg since she plays most of the guitars and bass and does all the vocals here as well. The cd kicks off with Alternate Universe, catchy with a bouncy, almost trip-hop feel, followed by Eye to Eye, an unabashedly hook-driven pop song with something of an 80s vibe.

 

The cd’s cynical, sardonic title track is a showcase for Rothberg’s characteristically tough, defiantly individualistic lyricism, snidely dismissing “the devil of the double standard, and heaven isn’t very cheap.” The best cut on the album is After the Parade, a big, mostly acoustic, beautifully metaphorical ballad. Rothberg’s vividly imagistic tableau sets those who came to lift their heavy hearts alongside the rest of the crowd who just came to party: “Please don’t ruin it for the rest of us,” she cautions. She follows that with Inventory, a big piano ballad with strings, pensive but optimistic with lusciously watery Leslie-speaker guitar. The bouncy, midtempo Hard Times brings back the cynical feel, as does the fast, defiant Retrograde:

 

I was never cast in shows

I was casting shadows

 

The catchiness doesn’t let up on the second half of the album, either. Get Away with It is blasting pop-punk with more than a few echoes of the Blondie hit One Way or Another. The tongue-in-cheek yet intense Chaste Away builds to a ferocious,  almost punk chorus. The cd wraps up with a surprisingly quiet acoustic tribute to a friend, a pedal-to-the-metal ode to a mini-SUV, a lush, richly arranged cover of the Stones classic Sway (from Sticky Fingers), another big ballad that builds from dreamy to crushing and finally a terrific, oldtimey acoustic ragtime song. Freddie Katz’ spot-on production puts all those layers of guitars and Rothberg’s voice – playful but wickedly edgy, with just the hint of a rasp – out front where they belong. This could be the soundtrack to a smart indie comedy flick, it sounds like it would be a great highway album and it ought to do well in Europe (corporate radio over here being terrified of people like Rothberg because she’s so much catchier than anything the major labels, in their final grotesque seconds, are releasing, and they’re the only ones still willing to fork over the payola). Available at better record stores, online and at shows, watch this space for upcoming dates.

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November 28, 2008 - Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , ,

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