This Week’s Finds: October 2-8 (Ezra Reich, Dirty Three, The Spectacular Fantastic)

“I Need A Moment Alone” – Ezra Reich

One part Bryan Ferry, one part B-52s, one part style-fixated NYC-based 21st-century rock’n’roller, Ezra Reich is, no doubt about it, just plain goofy. I can’t claim to be big into musicians who throw a lot of energy into their “look,” as such concern seems inevitably over-calculated. On the other hand, rock’n’roll history nevertheless indicates that one can never rule out a musician simply because he or she does cares about image/style, as there have been any number of worthy musicians (David Bowie, David Byrne, Prince, and the aforementioned Mr. Ferry come to mind) whose incisive sense of style was part of a rewarding musical package. One could also argue that a resolute lack of interest in so-called style can become its own sort of style (the entire grunge movement was more or less grounded in such an idea). In the end we listen with our ears, and in this case, my ears tell me this song is a fun, accomplished piece of pop, fusing elements of ’80s synth-pop with Prince-ian bits of campy funk and who knows what else. It works unaccountably well, probably because if you’re going to go over the top, you may as well go all the damned way. For me, when the female backup singer asks “You need a moment?” at 59 seconds, with all that deadpan come-hitherness, in the middle of an unexpected paean to self-reflection, well, I was pretty much hooked. “I Need A Moment Alone” is a song off Reich’s soon-to-be self-released CD, Milkshake Arcade, which will be his second album. The MP3 is available via his site. Thanks to the redoubtable Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.

“Doris” – the Dirty Three

I’m continually fascinated by rock’n’roll instrumentals, even as I remain skeptical of liking all that many. But every now and then one sneaks up and grabs me. “Doris,” from the veteran Australian trio Dirty Three, has a few great things going for it, from my perspective. Right away I love how the sharp, sliding rhythm is established by that great high-and-squonky guitar in the intro, and then how another guitar saws away with fuzzy fury at the bottom end of the sound. Aural landscape thus established, the middle part of the song is one grand, determined racket created by the unhinged interplay between an assortment of other, hitherto acoustic instruments (among which may be violin, mandolin, viola, and bagpipes), all underscored by the relentless beat, even as the drummer takes a backseat to the wild, vaguely Irish-sounding bray. It has the feel of a folk dance from the distant, re-forested future. About two and a half minutes in, the steady drummer re-emerges to drive this intense piece of music through its passionate conclusion. Dancers fall to the ground, exhausted and transcendent. “Doris” is a track from Dirty Three’s new CD, Cinder, slated for release next week on Touch and Go Records.

“Darkest Hour” – the Spectacular Fantastic

And leave it to the Big Star-ian Cincinnati combo known as the Spectacular Fantastic to bring us back to solid ground with this brisk, likable, power-poppy chestnut. There may be nothing here my head hasn’t sort of kind of heard before, but on the other hand, the sheer delight that courses through me as I listen tells my head that it is not my body’s only musical input device. Though my head sure does enjoy taking what delights my heart and figuring out solid “reasons” for that delight. So, here, in the chorus, an effect I always love: how the melody associated with the words (in this case, “In the darkest hour”) pulls up short of the harmonic resolution, which carries on afterwards, in the background, with that agreeably cheesy synthesizer line leading us into the resolving chord. The melody and chord pattern is pure basic traditional pop (straight out of “Heart and Soul”) but performed with, yes, heart and soul by Mike Detmer and crew, this is music that will always sound fresh and vibrant to me. “Darkest Hour” is a song off the Spectacular Fantastic’s new CD, The Spectacular Fantastic Goes Underground, released this week on Ionik Recordings. The MP3 resides on the band’s site.

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