The telltale self-indulgence of the third track here, “Juliette Lewis’s Day Off”, a fantasy from the point of view of a movie crew worker having an affair with the actress, is the early clue to Brad Brooks’s biggest influences, and later songs make them come through loud and clear. Brooks is the kind of guy whose favorite Beatles period would be the all-studio, post touring era. Who would buy a boxed set of nothing but Brian Wilson’s unfinished noodlings. Whose favorite Tears For Fears album would be Seeds of Love with all it’s over-the-top production and bells and whistles. And who would hold XTC all the more close to his heart for Andy Partridge’s stubborn refusal to venture out of the studio with his band. You get the picture.
Now, there is nothing wrong with any of those things. Indeed, at least one of those descriptions applies to me. But…
You just knew there was a “but”.
Though his references to their blueprints are obvious, Brooks has not built a very fine house on their foundations. This is all pop, pop, but without (forgive me) the fizz, fizz. The effervescence, excitement or exhilaration those bands supplied in their highest flights is in small quantities here.
The unfortunate but true reason is that by waving their banners high, Brooks has invited comparison with Lennon, McCartney, Wilson, Orzabal, Smith and Partridge as songwriters. And that is a promise he cannot keep. “All My Favorite Bands Broke Up”, for example, gives us the not-exactly-heartstopping line “I don’t understand why bands die and do they cry?” and is otherwise given over to a list of those favorite bands. I’ll give him credit for listing ABC, Spandau Ballet and even Kajagoogoo—but I’ll withdraw it if he’s being ironic. (Irony is so ‘90s, don’tcha know.)
This CD is…well, it’s the damnedest thing, is what it is. Splashing musical and lyrical ideas onto a cinema-scope sized canvas, it leaves you with a picture that is always interesting, if not always as developed or refined as one might like. I would likely hire Brooks as a producer-arranger, but as a songwriter he needs to make a few more trips to the well.
Note: This CD may be difficult to find. It wasn’t listed at any of the four online CD services I checked, and Brooks’s own web site wasn’t helpful at all. However, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area (as does Brooks) and you’re curious, it seems to be available in record stores there.
// Notes from the Road
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