[11 July 2011]
When Cassettes Won’t Listen (aka Jason Drake) announced the title of his new LP in early May, actor Kevin Spacey instantly hit him with a subpoena that forced a new name and all new covers to be printed. Scrounging for a similarly catchy title, Drake decided upon the next best follow-up to the Oscar winner: Evinspacey. (So far, no Evin Spaceys have tried to sue.) In an interview, the multi-instrumentalist mentioned that the title was never meant as a snide remark toward Spacey but rather as a pun on moving from jam-packed NYC to sprawling, “spacious” Los Angeles. Though the new name still implies exactly what Kevin Spacey sued for in the first place, he need not be so concerned that his name is associated with this product. Jason Drake doesn’t quite follow-up 2009’s Into the Hillside, but he creates newer, more original beats and proves his will to develop as an artist.
Aesthetically, Drake connects well on this “spacey” theme by packing the album full of hip-hop bass grooves and alien synthesizers that instill one with the feeling of free-floating while caught in a time warp. At the start, Drake states over audience applause that this is the first song off his new album, and the African-influenced beat that ensues sets listeners up for a changed man. (It’s ironic that moving to LA sparked more urban beats from Cassettes Won’t Listen than when he lived in a city littered with skyscrapers and a red-level terrorist watch.) As the album stretches onward, Drake keeps us lifted sonically with his gravity-defying bass and percussion. On “Stuck,” he turns an ominous tune into a fun trip when he throws a Beck-esque curveball into the mix, lightening up the mood with a circus-like keyboard scale. “Harp Darkness”, arguably the most well-produced track, conjures the softer side of Drake: intertwining guitar, piano and…can you guess?...harp, to perfectly depict a mood without even using words.
Then there’s the defining flaw for Cassettes Won’t Listen: the lyrics. As opposed to his last LP, which was entirely instrumental, Drake sings here on all but three songs, moving back to the roots of his debut Small-Time Machine. Yet like that LP, he falls back into problematic territory. His phrases are downright bland. For an album that supposedly discusses LA, Drake’s words are more about past love and sappy memories from NY. Besides the radio-friendly “Perfect Day”, which revels in the glamour of southern California sunshine, every other song brings up romance. On “The Night Shines”, Drake tells us about a 4th of July date that didn’t end so well. “It was cloudy so you couldn’t see a thing… the night shines/ We all fall down.” On “The Echoes”, he bellows, “How much convincing do you need / How much does my heart need to bleed?,” immersing us in a cheese-ball romance. The lack of depth in his words waters down the enormous depth in his production, which is probably why Into the Hillside was so much more listenable.
For Kevin Spacey, though, there are definitely worse albums with which to have your name associated. The album drools with the lyrical cheesiness of tween pop, but musically it has the tonal frequency of a much more patient artist than on Drake’s previous albums and EPs. If cassettes did listen, Evinspacey has enough original and interesting grooves to provide pleasant entertainment for the tape-looping gadgets.