Afternoon Freak (May 14th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Grab-bag Day, for various and sundry reasons. The post title refers to the name of the newest band to be highlighted in Joyful Noise’s White Label Series, to which I subscribe. One album a month, in a 500-copy vinyl run, chosen and annotated by an already-established artist who believes it’s worthy of broader and deeper exposure. Afternoon Freak’s “The Blind Strut” is in the May spotlight:

Odd thing: the curator here is in the band, so he’s got a vested interest. He’s also named Mike Watt, and he’s on bass here in an instro combo with Danny Frankel on drums and Matt Mottel on various keyboards. I will always extend Watt encouragement and critical latitude; The Minutemen have been and always will be a guiding light for me, musically and philosophically–plus, a better dude cannot be found. Trouble is, I’ve yet to truly get with any of his solo ventures, though this comes close. Mottel seems to be the lead voice among the three, Watt plays with restraint, finds the groove, and pitches his ear closely, Frankel rides the grooves ably. The tracks are catchy, a tad repetitious–this kind of date puts pressure on someone to be very imaginative–and evocative of multiple possible influences (remember the instros on Second Edition?), but they are not an irritant upon the ear. Four tracks A-side that get where they’re going; three on the B that stretch out, if a bit monotonously. All of Joyful Noise’s White Label releases have been interesting; one’s been terrific, and one great. This one wouldn’t do badly thrown on a venue PA before a cool band’s gig.

If you’re a Scratch Perry fan and haven’t heard his work with Jah Lion on Colombia Colly, you have your weekly grail hunt. The physical media’s a little scarce, but let the above track from the album be a motivator for you–one of the all-time greatest Perry sound effects leading into a ghostly voice reaching back to Peggy Lee.

 

Sometimes I get an irresistible hankering for the work of Gene Pitney. For some folks, I imagine he’s the opposite of cool: straight-looking, corny-sounding, a persistent profferer of melodramatic pop, caught in an unfashionable time capsule. For me, he’s a gone kind of cool: hitmaker deluxe (16 in the Top 40), studio tinkerer (multi-tracking his own vocals and instruments on “I’m Gonna Love My Life Away”), writer of “Hello Mary Lou” and “He’s a Rebel,” ace Spector avatar (“Every Little Breath I Take”), early coverer of and sideman for the Glimmer Twins (“That Girl Belongs to Yesterday”), hit duet singer with none other than George Jones (“I’ve Got Five Dollars and It’s Saturday night), master of geography songs (“Mecca,” “24 Hours from Tulsa,” “Last Exit to Brooklyn”), poet of teen you-and-me-against-the-world (“Town Without Pity”). As Jerry Lee might say, “Top that, motherfucker!” Pitney might have said it himself–in Italian.

Tempted? A brief Pitney Playlist for ya:

Persistent profferer of melodramatic pop–with a difference, huh?

Short-shrift Division:

I received my copy of Offbeat! yesterday and noted some interesting new records being reviewed. Sometimes I suspect I am critically soft-minded in that I will like anything if it’s in a New Orleans or south Louisianan tradition. Sampling these records with Apple Music, I was able to reassure myself that I can exercise critical discretion. I’m violating a blog rule by writing about lukewarm creations, but I suppose I need to show I can do it for the record:

Chas Justus & The Jury–Pale (really pale), characterless, zestless, sterilized Western swing. Merely skilled playing and boring vocals.

Cha Wa: Spyboy–To scope in further, I truly thought there was no such thing as an enervating Mardi Gras Indian record. I was wrong. This is record suffers from having a very finely-tuned funk-field.

Keith Frank & The Soileau Zydeco Band: Return of the King–I am nutso for Frank’s “Haterz.” But his recent insistence on walking his zydeco into urban musical neighborhoods makes it less tough and contagious.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Songs in the Key of Funk, Volume 1–I am always seeing Sam’s gigs touted in Offbeat! (and hearing them recommended on ‘OZ when in NOLA myself). First sentence of the current review of this album includes the phrase “[t]he heavyweight champion of rocking, brassy, NOLA funk.” This wouldn’t make it out of Golden Gloves.

Ok, never again…

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