February 26- March 4, 1998

Little Jack Melody
and His Young Turks -

my charmed life

Carpe Diem

Dentonís Little Jack Melody has come a long way from his humble, average origins. The former rock and roll bassistís 1991 debut, On the Blank Generation (released on Brave Comboís Four Dots label), instantly cast him as a quirky pop golden boy. So when his equally compelling 1994 follow-up, World of Fireworks, failed to ignite a second round of critical fervor, it was not only disappointing but a bit odd.

But with the new my charmed life, perhaps the third time will be the charm. As sweet as a Blow Pop, life is also elegiac, cinematic and coolly mysterious. But then, Melody is a mysterious man. Unnaturally obsessed with the cabaret music phenomena of Europe between the two world wars, he combines the dramatic scoring of a Nino Rota, the Broadway snazz of Sondheim, the wry theatrics of Brecht/Weill, the weirdness of Tom Waits and the poetic vision of Kerouac, bringing it all into colorful relief with his skilled back-up band, the Young Turks. Itís not often that one hears an accordion, Moog, harmonium, Hammond B-3 organ, strings and tuba all within a single song.

my charmed lifeís breezy title cut evokes cigars, martinis and good vibes. Melodyís phrasing is delicate, like that of Sinatraís, his voice Tormé smooth, his songwriting a smart tribute to another era. Melody has the ability to compose songs that are timeless yet new, rooted in certain traditions but still modern. Another life standout is "Gone in October," Melodyís eulogy to another Jack. Its lead-in lines, "In New England the leaves are falling / And Catholic girls sleep in sweet dreamless sheets / Broken windows blink out of the red bricks and silence" might have been straight out of Kerouacís Blues and Haikus. Also impressive: the lovelorn ballad, "Maggie, with green eyes," which has all the earmarks of a classic Irish drinking song, and "Samba Ordinaire," a brassy, working manís shirt-and-tie number complete with stock quotes and a business report blaring in the background.

Throughout my charmed life, Melody manages a wacky diversity without kitsch or cynicism, proving that he may yet live up to his "Kurt Weill for the Tarantino age" billing. Talk about pressure. But if anyone can handle it, itís Little Jack.

- Liz Belile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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