Chris Cohen - Chris Cohen - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Chris Cohen - Chris Cohen

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2019-03-29
Chris Cohen - Chris Cohen
Chris Cohen - Chris Cohen

Nick Lowe’s album was titled Pure Pop for Now People in America. It was Jesus of Cool just about everywhere else in England. I don’t know. Perhaps, in an ending Rock ‘n’ Roll Apocalypse, they are pretty much the very same thing.

Ah, yes, the sound of breaking glass: this album, Cohen says, deals with “pain and loss, but it’s also about accepting loss.”

This is a lovely record that is both pop and (very) cool.

“Song They Play” is beautifully simple. A sparse bass, drum, and guitar frame a dreamy melody. The vocals recall Brian Wilson as he touched the spheres. This song too resides in the upper altitudes of pop music beauty.

The catchy tunes continue. “Edit Out,” another languid tune, reminds me the Kevin Ayers, he of the baritone voice, Canterbury rock history, and sublime melodies. Kasey Knudsen’s sax adds a smooth West Coast Jazz flavor. “Green Eyes” extends the deep urgency of pop music that sends its tendrils to folk and soft rock. “William” is jaunty, with the first big guitar solo that rattles the tune and then dives into deep sea rock territory. This is retro 60’s stuff with a new life. 

And then, the unexpected: the traditional “House Carpenter” (also known as “The Demon Lover”) gets a slow-paced wah-wah treatment. The song is an old British folk song, recorded by all the greats like The Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Andy Irvine, and Martin Simpson, and relates the sad tale of a woman seduced by an obviously evil character (the demon lover) away from her husband (the house carpenter) and child, and she sadly ends up at the” bottom of the seas” and/or “the hills of hell.” This is eerie stuff.

In some versions, there is a “cloven foot” involved, too., just for good symbolic measure.

The song deepens the groove of this record.  This isn’t a pop song. It sends a dramatic root down into the bedrock of tradition, and in doing so, makes this music important. Fairport Convention and Bob Dylan did the very same thing.

Of course, great pop, once again, emerges from those folky depths. “Twice in a Lifetime” has an (almost) Steely Dan “Ricky Don’t Lose that Number” pulse with an (almost) Neil Young Buffalo Springfield guitar solo. “What Can I Do” is breezy pop, which again, evokes the ghost of Kevin Ayers with its effortless melody. “The Link” is piano pounded truth. And then Kasey Knudsen’s sax encounters a weird electrical grid and pulsates all over the place, except, of course, on the jazzy smooth West Coast. Sometimes, classy pop music can still snap a synapse or two.

And then “Heavy Weather Sailing” is another breezy pop tune with prominent guitar sound. And it inverts the expected formula and states, “Jonah swallowed the whale.” That’s what this album does so well. It twists the obvious into something that avoids that obvious.  And that’s a tough thing to do, especially in pop music.

The album ends on a positive and upbeat note with “No Time to Say Goodbye.” Guitars chime; a sax erupts; the vocals sing urgent beauty; and, like any good pop song, it races to its finish line with hopeful exuberance, an exuberance that defies “the pain and loss.” It’s a song, like all the others on this album, that will “accept that loss” and then sing the many climes of the human soul in a very melodic pop song, a pop song that touches folk traditions, pop radio, and bits of rock that will always revolve, like any great record that deserves to be played into good radio waves of Pure Pop for Now People infinity.

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