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Music

John Wesley Coleman III: The Last Donkey Show

Stephen Haag

Freewheeling, eclectic indie rock 'n' roll is the order of the day on Coleman's sixth LP.


John Wesley Coleman III

The Last Donkey Show

Label: Goner
US Release Date: 2012-02-21
UK Release Date: 2012-02-27
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John Wesley Coleman may share 67% of his name with Wesley Stace’s alter ego John Wesley Harding (to say nothing of a certain 1967 Bob Dylan record), but on his sixth full length, Coleman shows less interest in evoking those two touchstones and would much rather tweak irreverent barroom rock and pre-Beatles rock ‘n’ roll. Recorded in Texas and Oakland, CA, the freewheeling, eclectic The Last Donkey Show feels informed by a lot of the shaggy lo-fi pop coming out of the latter city’s across-the-bay neighbor, San Francisco: Shannon and the Clams, Sonny and the Sunsets, etc. To wit: the demented girl-group stylings of “Don’t Waste My Time” and the reckless, circus-y keybs of the opening “My Grave” find Coleman and his compatriots throwing ideas against the wall and having them stick in just the right spots. Elsewhere, a few tracks explore the aforementioned pre-Beatles RNR window that the likes of Mark Sultan and Dexter Romweber have exploited and twisted (“A Clown Gave You a Baby”, “The Howling”), but are no less fun -– and ditto for the countrified dealings of “Misery Again” and “Hanging Around”. Donkey Show runs out of steam at its end -– the quiet duet (with Andre Hall) “Running Into the Bulls” passes on the opportunity to explore a tweaked metaphor, and the earnest steel guitar closer “Flower In The Dark” just doesn’t quite fit with what preceded it. When Coleman’s on his game, though, Donkey Show is a heckuva good time.

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