Sunday, February 22, 2009

A.C. Newman's "Guilty" Pays Tribute to Younger Days...

First, let me be clear that I'm not going to attempt to be impartial about this CD. I think that A.C. Newman's latest solo album, Get Guilty, is amazing and I'm giving it a score of 89 on a 100 point scale.

I became interested in Newman after reading an interview he gave to a Canadian newspaper in which he cited his musical influences. This is a young man who talked about boomer bands/musicians like the Dave Clark Five, Harry Nilsson, Pete Townshend, Brian Wilson and others whose sounds are readily identified in this album. Oh, Newman is either the Paul or John - depending on your perspective - in one of the biggest bands to ever come out of Canada... Fans of the band will know, the others who have never heard their work (like me) can put that aside for now.

Unlike the new CDs that take 70 or 80 minutes to listen to, this one flies by - like an old cassette - in just 42 minutes and 14 seconds. Here are my song by song impressions, in bits and pieces rather than full sentences.

There are Maybe Ten or Twelve - The D.C. 5 influence is readily apparent and it slides by in a D.C. 5-like 2:40.

The Heartbreak Rides - If Nilsson had sung with 10,000 Maniacs... hints of Thunderclap Newman ("Something in the Air")... Wilson lyrics ("all I really wanted was to go downtown, and so we ride... we want the good life, 'L.A.!' she cried.")... a theremin (actually a melodian) from Pet Sounds. I love this life-affirming track.

Like A Hit Man, Like A Dancer - Roy Orbison meets R.E.M. but with added youthful energy (R.E.M. got very tired sounding very quickly). Bowie attitude... "I owe my soul, like a changed man, but not a changed man."

Prophets - Here's the Townshend anthem, like a track from Who's Next or Tommy. See me, feel me... "I found myself with the rabble who stood on the mount... There are too many prophets here. I stood divided."

Submarines of Stockholm - McCartney, Beatles, Donovan, Ray Davies and the Kinks. This would have been a beautiful late '60s - early '70s single. "Our submarine pulls into Stockholm..." Yellow submarines, mellow yellow.

Thunderbolts - Like a lost out-take from the Police's Synchronicity.

The Palace at 4 A.M. - British invasion music... the Hollies, the Searchers, Dave Clark drums and baritone saxophones. Glorious.

The Changeling (Get Guilty) - A Bowie ballad meets Elton John... "There were front row tickets to the public burning"... Handing tickets out to God... White Album guitars... This song would also have fit perfectly on Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend album.

Elemental - "It's elemental, come sunset's gun." If a slightly bitter John Lennon had recorded with Badfinger... "I fought my way through... not because I wanted to."

Young Atlantis - Yes, like the latter-stage (mature) Donovan. It sounds like one of those classic Mickey Most productions but with - get this - Ventures guitars and Pet Sounds rhythms. Pretty close to genius.

The Collected Works - Like a great rockin' Pink Floyd track that just jumps out and grabs you (the gold it's in the...). Fans of XTC will also love it.

All of My Days & All of My Days Off - Ray Davies meets the Heartbreakers... "Reminded why I love this one... And now I give you all my days, and all my days off." This also reminds me of Bowie's cover of Friday On My Mind. Which makes this a good place to close this review.

On Pin-Ups, a youthful Bowie looked back at the music that preceeded his and injected it with love and energy. A.C. Newman does the same thing here. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

Flash News: A.C. Newman plays at Harlow's in Sacramento, at 2700 J Street, on the evening of Tuesday, February 24, 2009.

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