Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Avi Fox-Rosen – Welcome to the Show

This one dates from the end of last year, when Lucid Culture was running at, um, less than full speed. Meanwhile, the emails were piling up and so were the albums. We could have built a Compact Disc Ranch in the desert next to the Cadillacs with most of them. Because even the good ones that remained have lost their currency as far as press and bloggage are concerned, we moved on. But this one we couldn’t leave behind. Like a more rocking, shapeshifting Steely Dan, Avi Fox-Rosen’s latest album Welcome to the Show leaps to the top of this year’s list so far. It’s funky, carnivalesque and mystifyingly multistylistic – if there’s a genre this guy can’t write in, it isn’t apparent here. Most of the songs are terse and short, clocking in at three minutes or less. With a noir undercurrent matched by vividly aphoristic black humor, guitarist Fox-Rosen sings with a cool, suave, deviously jazzy vocal delivery that’s well-suited to the lyrics – think Donald Fagen’s equally gifted, more ill-at-ease bastard stepchild.

This is a loosely thematic concept album about the current, dismal state of the world, the intro like a carnival barker’s theme, completely apropos for the Bernie Madoff era. The first full-length track, Life Is Short & Then You Die cynically sets the stage, the CIA planting a flea on a blind man as a bug (the electronic kind) – bizarrely logical creative touches like that are all over this album. Truth & Beauty follows, a slinky reggae beat with accordion and a too-sweet-to-be-true music box theme – imagine Botanica in a good mood. The album’s centerpiece, the funky, breathless narrative White Collar Crime gets Bowie-esque with its watery chorus-box guitar hook, right down to an inspired, Adrian Belew-style shredding solo.

The next track sounds like Vampire Weekend if that band had balls; Tower of Babel is the most overtly ominous, bluesy of all the tracks so far with nice evil balalaika-ish organ.The menacing vibe lingers with Two Glasses, a stripped-down soul song with creepy accordion and bells, then lifts with the subtly sardonic Rhodes piano of the jazz-rock nocturne The Grey Area and then the LOL, marimba-reggae come-on Hot Girl on a Bike. The album winds up on a pensive note with a big piano ballad that turns into a defiant drinking song, and an atmospheric accordion tune. This is first and foremost an ipod record (if that turn of phrase doesn’t have you scratching your head): there are so many fun musical japes, lyrical jabs and hooks here that you need to spend awhile with it to discover all the good stuff. Fox-Rosen’s next band gig is Feb 20 at the Workmen’s Circle Purim Bash at the Synagogue for the Arts, downtown at 49 White Street at 9 PM-ish; his new theatrical creation, a puppet cabaret satire titled The Church of Babel co-written with Ora Fruchter takes place at the New Yiddish Repertory Theater in the Workmen’s Circle, 45 E. 33rd St. at 8 PM on 2/18.

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February 10, 2010 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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