In 1977, the late New York rock historian Alan Betrock wrote that, in a perfect world, Kristian Hoffman - then keyboard player and songwriter for smart-pop funsters The Mumps (fronted by the late Lance Loud) - could write a Broadway musical that would shame the likes of Chorus Line composer Marvin Hamlisch. On the evidence of a modest but stellar output as a solo artist since then, especially his latest, Fop, one might well assume that Hoffman might find such a task limiting. However, it seems Betrock was right, for the 17 tracks here do manage to deftly conjure little Technicolor musicals in the listener‘s mind.
Hoffman’s mission statement since The Mumps has never wavered: playful, imaginatively crafted hard pop and wordplay that makes a lyric sheet gladly mandatory, and Fop delivers these goods big time. Ballads like “Out Of The Habit” and opening track “Something New Is Born” are as affecting as they are widescreen-grand. Uptempo tracks such as “I Can’t Go There With You” and “Imaginary Friend” show that Hoffman can bring the sunshine as well as the razzmatazz. The pointed satire of “Evil” and “Ready Or Not” taste of sugar and venom in equal measures, while the NYC disco fromage of “Soothe Me” reminds listeners that Hoffman used to hang with downtown dudes like Klaus Nomi and James Chance. Not bad for someone who’s been creating cultured tunefulness since before Rufus Wainwright was a gleam in Stephin Merritt’s doleful eye.
// Notes from the Road
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