Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Music Review: Roy Zimmerman, Faulty Intelligence

Roy Zimmerman's new disc Faulty Intelligence has fifteen songs. The playlist is carefully composed with one rootsy revival song, "Glory Bound Train" split into three recurring interludes (it derides Bush II's millennarism). But who listens to albums any more? The first thing I did with the CD when I took it out of the case was to stick it in my PC and rip it to MP3. Then I listened to the songs on my handheld computer: slowly, at intervals, one song at a time, like one would eat a box of expensive chocolate. And since the files were on the handheld, I listened to some in alphabetical order and others on shuffle. I guess my message to musicians is "Forget about song order, just put the files on-line and give me a PayPal button on your web site, please".

Musically, the album is extremely varied, with each song performed and produced in an appropriate style. Zimmerman and his band easily adopt the instrumentation and voice for every occasion. I found myself waiting in vain for a reggae tune. Maybe next time.

Spy spoofing "CIDIAFBI" sounds like the theme from a lost 60s Bond movie. "My Conservative Girlfriend" is a John Denver love song. "Chickenhawk" is an honest-to-goodness country tune about armchair jocks sending the neighbours' kid to war: "I didn't walk the walk but I can talk the talk -- bawk bawk bawk". "Creation Science 101" is a rousing Jerry Lee Lewis number where Zimmerman assumes the role of a teacher at a Christian college. "Hello, NSA" is an early Elvis ballad: "I love you because you really... listen".

"Intelligent Design" is another Bush-bashing country tune, but not directly about evolution as one might expect. "Saddam Shame" is a folkie guitar strummer with exquisite lyrics. "When the Saints Go Marching Into New Orleans" is a perfect-pitch roots blues tune about NOLA -- with a complete horns section. "That Is The War On Terror", sets the album's most seriously angry lyrics to an 80s FM radio rocker.

"Ingles" comments bilingually on the Mexican immigration situation with much Chicano guitar-strumming. It forms an interesting companion piece to Tom Lehrer's slightly chauvinist "In Old Mexico" where the country south of the border is simply somewhere grotty to go on vacation.

The album also offers an astonishingly accurate Al Green impersonation to genuinely soulful accompaniment -- pretty fly for a white guy! Croons Zimmerman in a falsetto so libidinous it'll give you instant bed head: "Abstain with me baby, all night long..."

"Turn Off The Hubble" is a cabaret tune about how much easier it would be for everybody to deal with the Universe if we didn't actually have to know anything about it. This Central European oompah vibe also underpins the sublime "Defenders of Marriage", about how shocking it is that gay people might want to do something so decadent and perverted as to exchange vows and settle down. "It's unnatural!"

Toward the end of the disc, "America" sounds a lot like a token "I'm not a traitor to the nation" number after all the cynicism and satirical vitriol of the other songs. "God bless America – it just might work!" But maybe I'm misreading some layer of irony here.

The bottom line on Roy Zimmerman is that we have a new Tom Lehrer on our hands. But this time he hasn't just got a grand piano and a razor wit, he has a full band, and he's doing every song in a new style. If you like music, if you like satire, and if your politics are even the tiniest bit left of Rush Limbaugh, then this a record for you.

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Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I listen to albums. At least once, because I think if the artist cared about the order I should listen to them that way. Also, I tend to put an album on and listen all the way while I work - I have been known to listen to the same album all day, upon occasion (I don't have anything more up-to-date than the CD player, so I can't deal with changing disks all the time, but that's just me and not wanting to invest that much time in making playlists and all that.)

Sounds like I might have to buy this album.

29 October, 2006 15:32  

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