The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

2/08/2005

Chris Stamey - "Travels in the South"

A big box o' new CD's arrived today from my favorite CD seller, alldirect.com. The first one I played? The somewhat new-ish return to pop music from Chris Stamey, Travels in the South (a bargain at alldirect for only $11.35, about $5 cheaper than any other CD retailer I trust to use). Maybe it's hidden charms will reveal themselves in later listens (it happens a lot with new CD's), but this was a bit of a disappointment.

As I've gotten older, my taste in music has grown more eclectic and (I would like to think) interesting. When I was in college, all the music I listen to was from about a three-to-four year period, and was limited to just a few Western genres (new wave pop, R&B, Top 40). As I've entered my fifth decade on planet earth, I now routinely listen to 80 years worth of music (all the way back to the 1920s for Jimmie Rodgers), from six continents. Yet the music I loved in college, the artists who I listen to, have not "kept up." It's very rare for their music to become more interesting, more eclectic, to be drawn from a more diverse array of sources. Generally, the songs just get flatter and flatter. The hooks gets less catchy. The diversity narrows. This isn't true in jazz, why is it true in pop and rock?

It's been nearly 20 years - 18 to be precise - since Chris's phenomenal CD It's Alright. A collection of catchy jangly pop for the first seven tracks, ending with the incredible troika of "If You Hear My Voice," "27 Years in a Single Day," and "Incredible Happiness," each of which in a just and fair world would have been #1 hits (with "Incredible Happiness logging multiple weeks at the top of th charts). 18 years. It's been 23 years since the dB's incredible second LP, led by "Happenstance," one of the few songs ever that, on first listen, instantly grabbed me and make me focus on that one song. The moment for Chris Stamey to put out incredible pop music like this has passed.

It's not a bad record. It's just that there is no "Cycles Per Second," or "Ask for Jill," on the record. Nevertheless, today's song of the day, one of the stronger tracks on the CD, the title track, "Travels in the South."

Addendum: Stamey is probably the wrong artist to accuse of getting less interesting and less diverse, given his 1995 effort, The Robust Beauty of Improper Linear Models in Decisionmaking, an exercise in experimental guitar cacophony that made no effort to be "pop." But my point is still appropriate with regards to his efforts in the pop music vein.
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