Anyone who has had a song featured on the Dude, Where's My Car? soundtrack gets my stamp of approval. Not that I ever saw the movie, but being able to put such a fact on your musical resumé seems pretty damned cool to me. Lucky Linus of Hollywood is able to do just that and a whole lot more. You see, when pure pop fans clamor about their favorite musical genre, it's often thanks to guys like Linus who keep carrying the torch for us. Yes, this is the stuff you can call "smart pop", "Beatlesque", "stuff they wouldn't dare play on the Top 40 anymore", or whatever else this kind of music is getting labeled nowadays.
But Linus has the chops. He's worked with everyone from the Smashing Pumpkins to Lil' Kim and Puff Daddy (I refuse to say "P. Diddy", just like I always refused to think of Prince as anything other than "Prince"). So what's this guy doing with all these genuinely lovely pop tunes that the kids won't understand? Well as they say in this business, don't quit your day job. Working with the luminaries gives Linus the opportunity to work on his own (and better) recordings.
Let Yourself Be Happy is filled with clever bits. The most outstanding one is probably the cover of Ozzy Osbourne's "Goodbye to Romance" that turns the tune into a bouncy piano-based number, slightly reminiscent of CSN&Y's "Our House". I wonder if Ozzy's heard it. I can see him now, sitting there in his shades and saying "Wha's that . . .? Blimey. I never . . . huh? Jesus. Izzat my song?" and then muttering those Ozzy nuggets that we have all come to know and love. Linus also turns in a performance of the Smoking Popes' "Need You Around" that is thankfully better than the original.
My favorite clever moment goes to "Thank You for Making Me Feel...Better". The music in this piece is made up of tooting beer bottles and loops of caps being snapped off said bottles, followed by the occasional burp. Anyone who's ever ensconced themselves with a six pack all alone can fully appreciate this tune with no amount of irony whatsoever.
Linus of Hollywood is careful to pay attention to past heroes, and more than one influence can be heard throughout the disc. Fans of Wings and solo McCartney will probably be charmed by "The Girl I'll Never Have", which sounds like a nice little "You Gave Me the Answer" tribute, complete with a chorus of kazoos. "Where Are You?" is uncannily similar to ELO's "Telephone Line" in both idea and execution. And "A Whole New Country" sounds like it would fit nicely on something like 10cc's Sheet Music (it somewhat recalls their "Hotel" from that album in spots). Even the majestic opening track "Building a Ship" echoes some of the more grandiose moments of Procol Harum.
But within these apparent influences, Linus does indeed have his own voice. He's not merely recycling the old favorites and showing off. He's genuinely integrated them into an honest piece of work here that is quite simply one of the best pop releases to come around this year. For the most part, Linus has played everything here himself, with a bit of assistance on the drums, flute, and bass. So if visions of Todd Rundgren start popping up in your head when listening to this album, don't be alarmed. Linus could give Rundgren a run for his old school money any day with albums like these (and really, who wouldn't like to see Todd pull another Something/Anything? out of his hat after all this time).
Pop albums this good don't come out every day, despite what the droves of "pop" groups may lead you to believe. Get this one while it's hot. Let Yourself Be Happy is an excellent reminder of the way things used to be, done with a true and knowing style. When so many bands out there claim to be real pop purveyors, it's always nice to have someone like Linus of Hollywood come around and show them how wrong they are. To sum up: Let Yourself Be Happy by Linus of Hollywood. 11 tracks, no filler. Tasty and satisfying, just the way pop music ought to be.