First come the blurred piano chords and crazed cello bleats. Next we hear the speaking voice of hard-bitten, semi-anarchic American novelist Dan Fante delivering the hard-bitten, semi-anarchic lyrics that he wrote for this song by the Italian band Hollowblue (however that collaboration came about). The words make sense yet the sentences don’t (“Drag your laundry down First Avenue”? “Spend some time in your drugstore mind”?), but with his voiceover-announcer-from-hell intonation, he sells it to you anyway. “I’ve got a pair of socks I like better than you”—well, okay, sure, if you say so, Dan. (And he does, twice.)
Turns out the jittery, slippery, loopy opening section is over before you can quite absorb it; at 0:27, the band fully takes over, the lyrics now reintroduced over a brisk, noir-ish Continental beat, sung in heavily accented English by the engaging front man Gianluca Maria Sorace. While Sorace’s breezy earnestness and reedy tenor brings Fante’s nutty non-narrative to a more grounded and inclusive place, in my mind it’s cellist Ellie Young who provides the heart of this likable dadaesque melodrama. First we heard those wild, horn-like blurts accompanying Fante. She returns at 0:48 with strong, gypsy-ish bowing and then uses a muscular 25-second solo in the center of the song (1:40) to make a strong argument for the cello as a rock instrument, and it’s less maybe about the solo itself than how great the song sounds when Sorace returns in full force afterward.
“First Avenue” is the lead track from Hollowblue’s CD Stars Are Crashing (In My Backyard), which was released in Europe last year on Midfinger Records, an Italian label. MP3 via the band’s site.