Jim Bianco’s third official studio album has an interesting background story. Bianco, a fiercely independent musician/filmmaker operating from California, funded the album with the help from fans, raising $31,500 through Kickstarter, which is an online threshold pledge system for funding creative projects. True to his jester-like image, he promised the most generous donators personal “Happy Birthday” singing and even their very own songs “based on an in-depth questionnaire you fill out.” The people’s artist indeed.
The title of the finished product, Loudmouth, says a whole lot about the album’s soul. “A person who tends to talk too much in an offensive or tactless way,” is the explanation in the dictionary and that’s what’s basically on offer here. The music itself is a fairly straightforward pop/rock, the albums strength lies first and foremost in Biancos lyrics, which often contain humorous everyday observations. He’s funny, nasty, sweet, sarcastic, heartfelt, even mind-boggling at times.
The album starts out with a light hearted pirate-y sing-along, “Sinners”. The hippy-like communal feel conveyed therein is immediately broken up in the second song, the epic “Talented”, which is announced with a dramatic ring of a church bell and a darker, more introspective lyric. “You’re so talented / You’re so good at faking it / Your eyes are steady but … / Your insides are shaking”. And not a jester in sight. Bianco’s baritone voice is husky and low, deadpan in the serious songs, but more playful in the more eccentric affairs.
Bianco’s versatility is given free reign early on – his unpredictability hammered home with the snappy, quirky “Elevator Operator”. The oddball lyrics even manage to pay homage to the similarly weird Paul McCartney song, “Contemporary Secretary”, of his McCartney II album.
The rest is a mixed affair. There’s a healthy dose of The Stones in “But I Still Want You”, where he sings to a girl with a “slingshot mouth” and “barbed wired heart”. There Bianco shows of his wordplay skills, as in the lines: “You say what you mean / You mean what you say / Baby, why you always got to say mean things to me?”.
There’s a bit of a hiccup near the end: “Shut Up and Kiss Me” and “Slaughter” are slight affairs, Bianco’s voice oddly resembling Brad Roberts of the Crash Test Dummies in the former song (a compliment, no worries). The album is rounded of nicely with the pretty “Home”, with its universal, almost anthemic lyrics sung in a confident, sincere manner. A bit schmaltzy maybe, but Bianco manages to steer clear of an impending triteness quite gracefully.
All in all, quite a mixed affair then. Bianco doesn’t quite cut the mustard, especially regarding the songwriting. He’s on more solid ground using that loudmouth of his.