Accessibility. Important to all art, and as such, the subject of heated and never-ending debate. Are Shakespeare and “difficult” poetry somehow intrinsically better and more important because greater effort is needed to reveal all their qualities than exerted by the average listener grappling with the heady heights of Justin Timberlake’s lyrics? Is a three-hour session of experimental post-jazz bhangra, performed on a tin of peas and someone’s armpit hair and recorded on a pre-World War II mic, aesthetically superior to the mass-produced, three-minute concoctions that are the daily bread of the pop charts? It has been claimed that music’s essential greatness and appeal lie in there being nothing to understand about it; it either works or it doesn’t, as simplistic as that sounds (and as fervently as all the elitist, obscurest muso-nerds out there pretend this isn’t so). So, if musical comprehension is supposedly instantaneous, how can accessibility be an issue when it comes to an album?
Well, Tony Lucca reckons this record displays a “better sense of accessibility” than his earlier ones, of which there have been four (their titles all heavy with the alliterative s. Joker). GoodCop, his PR people, reckon that he has in fact “bottled accessibility and blended it with relevance”. Gadzooks, you say. Well, accessibility is a word usually bandied around by music critics when they’re trying to foist odd or threatening music on the herds of potential listeners grazing hopefully on their verbiage. Having it repeated several times at once in the context of “modern shimmering pop sounds that call to mind current faves Maroon 5 & Coldplay” should be enough to strike fear and repulsion into the heart of even the most battle-hardened and populist of music criterati. I was hoping that Shotgun would deliver lots of short, punchy one-twos to the fey and whimsical body of contemporary singer-songwriting, but the only thing really threatened by it was my will to live.
Well, admittedly that’s somewhat overstated (although the shirt sported by Lucca on the album cover is truly an abomination.) But I’m afraid I’m driven by a need to counterbalance the resoundingly ordinary and mediocre songs on offer here. Saying that I myself have written much better ones is both arrogant (though true) and useless to you, the reader, so judge for yourselves. Here are some of his opening salvos: “On the reckless and carefree wings of love / Take my hand / Let’s fly away”; “Woke up and I had to write you / Had a dream and you were there / More like we were both there together / Smiles and laughter everywhere”; and my favourite, “Day’s gone by / Sky’s gone grey / Bottle’s dry / Hell to pay”, with its primary school poetics. This is the supposed chorus of “Roller Coaster”: “It’s the feeling of this ride we’re on / It’s making me crazy / Like a roller coaster we’ve been on too long”. Yet he manages to perform feats of miserable awkwardness and ineptitude in the middle of anodyne verses, too: “‘Cause I’m the only one / To rectify the damage I have done”, “To me she cries like a child / With no bedtime story”.
All of this backed by a guitarist who’s played with Jewel and Marc Anthony, a co-producing bassist who “brought with him a Euro-DJ aesthetic (i.e., brings with him the Euro-slush vibe of Eros Ramazzotti). Add that Italian to shades of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s countrified soft rock (without the tunes or harmonies), The Eagles (without the strangeness) and Bon Jovi (without the choruses), put it all in a blender until you have about four decent lines left, and you have this record of hapless balladry, as eloquently romantic as Xanax.
Tony Lucca has sold 10,000 records more than I have, and without the benefit of retail distribution. I wish I could give those sales to Scarth Locke. It may be that I’m relishing playing the part of Bad Cop to an unfair extent, being mean and irrelevant in a hypocritical attempt to be amusing and therefore accessible to you, reader darling. But honestly, this review is more memorable than the album, even if I were to nail the latter to your forehead. Shotgun is as limitlessly accessible as the desert; there’s nothing there and it’s a good place to go if you want to die forgotten. If, like me, you prefer to relish life, then turn up something by Pelican until your ears bleed, acknowledging as you do so that accessibility is just one more word in a dictionary real rock needs like a fish needs a bipedal personal transport device.