A heads-up to all you overly serious types, bemoaning your daily fate in this troubled economy: lighten up. The message from Scot Sax is that all you need is irreverent wonderful pop fun. What Sax offers is exactly that—an invigorating musical respite that refreshes and delights. The former Wanderlust band member who has since set out on his own (first as Bachelor Number One, now as himself) has assembled a great summery self-titled CD that is eager to please and succeeds in making good impressions in a variety of pop tempos and styles.
In the pretty mid-tempo “Lifetime”, Sax takes solace in the fact that things do not need to be serious, honoring a promise to himself to remain forever this way: “I feel a sense of community with just a hint of monogamy / But I don’t want my reward to be social insecurity / Somebody asked me if it’s serious, this relationship of ours / I said My God, I hope it’s not, we’re way too busy laughing at the stars”. It’s a refreshing viewpoint, unexpected and disarming and it’s just one of the many songs that works well here.
His sometime wry lyrics with their clever sarcasm invite comparisons to the likes of earlier Aimee Mann and Elvis Costello. Optimistic cynicism hasn’t sounded this good in some time. “Tomorrow Hurry Up” talks about how today sucks, moving as slow as a garbage truck, then later offers subtle backing-up garbage truck sounds. Yet with all this bleak boredom, Sax notes “good things are bound to come”.
On the track “Feng Shui”, Sax skewers serious expectations again, this time in a musical pastiche that recalls early Beck. He mixes silly pseudo-rap verse (“an occupation, inoculation, I changed the station and make you cry, I make you pie and coffee, awfully strong, awfully sorry I made it wrong”) with a catchy optimistic chorus/anthem for a new generation (“Do what you want to do/ go with what you know / Don’t ever stop dreaming what you dream /Don’t take no!”). It’s a powerful combination, and it shows how Sax can step beyond the range of normal formulaic pop.
But don’t get me wrong, as a major fan of tuneful light pop, I have to tell you Sax has mastered the form. The CD opens with “I Am the Summertime”, a cheery bit of sunny pop that recalls Glenn Tilbrook and Squeeze, right down to the organ accompaniment. This memorable song from the “American Pie” soundtrack has lyrics that invite one to “kick off your shoes, the blues, and use anything but your mind, ‘cause this is the summertime and it’s here to free your mind”, again driving home the urge to sail away on a wave of fun.
“100 Girls”, a title track from another soundtrack, lets Sax display a slightly different sound, more Blink-182-ish, but it still works, while “Thinking ‘bout You” is an odd musical mix of say, Vanity Fair and T-Rex. “Please Disregard” has an early Bee Gees funk groove to it, and again lyrics that explore hardships but still end on an up note: “You’re overwhelmed, you’re underpaid, you say life’s hard, you want it made, it’s all a stage, you’re gonna play your part, you say life’s hard, if you get this message, then please disregard . . . you gotta know, it’s gonna get better.” “Weird Life” is a fun upbeat number, both musically and lyrically.
“3rd Degree Blues” is an incredible song that, to my ears, sounds like it could fit right in among the gems found on Chris Von Sneidern’s Big White Lies. Sax also hits his requisite Beatle-like references, most notably on the slower-tempo “Traveling Inside”, which seems to masterfully combine Lennon influences on the verses with some shades of Wings-era McCartney on the chorus. “I Keep Running” is a spare mid-tempo song that begs to be covered by Fleetwood Mac (let Buckingham, McVie and Nicks fight over who’ll get to sing it).
All told, this debut solo effort deserves high praise. Sax and his musical cohorts, bassist Mark Getten and drummer David Shaffer deliver 13 solid tracks here (14 actually—there’s a hidden track beyond the final cut if you let it play on). This album presents the past filtered through the present, deceptively simple songs that grow better over time, and it’s even catchier than flypaper.
Does anyone remember laughter? Scot Sax and his music might just cure your bad case of seriousness. The simple wry wit and pop hooks are guaranteed to challenge your resistance not to smile. Once you give in to this musical fun, you’ll find yourself playing it over and over again, happily.
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// Notes from the Road
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