Sunday, July 29, 2007

Travels With Jerry (and Zach)

Flugente, self-titled, Mootron Records [9/18/07]

It's not fashionable to sing about the government or politics.
-- Flugente, "It's a Modern World"


The solo debut from Brooklyn's Jerry Adler (The Blam) documents a trip through Europe. The troubadour-oriented
songs reference Holland, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

It isn't bad—obligatory reference to Van Gogh aside ("I could cut my ear off")—and Adler [left] has the right kind of voice for that whole talk-sing thing—like Dylan with clearer nasal passages—but
I get the same feeling from this release as I do most live albums.

When they're good, I tend to think, "Wish I'd been there." Otherwise—Cheap Trick's Live at Budokan aside—I prefer studio recordings. Same for travelogues. In which case, though, whether well done or not, I still tend to think, "Wish I'd been there."

Hearing about other people's travels is never as interesting as doing your own traveling. I'm sure there are near-exceptions, like reading the works of Bruce Chatwin, but ain't nothing like the real thing.

Granted, my experiences in France were different than Adler's—it was the mid-1980s, and I was accompanied my parents—but I'd rather return than listen to someone else's thoughts about the country (I've never been to Holland, Germany, Italy, or Spain).

Interestingly, fellow Brooklynite Zach Condon (Beirut), who relocated from Albuquerque, has squeezed two albums out of his travels through Europe. The Gulag Orkestar was influenced
by the Eastern European music he heard—and played—while
visiting Paris. His upcoming release is a full-on French effort.

It's cool that these men have come up with such different approaches to their European vacations, but I prefer the
baroque Beirut over the stripped-down Flugente.

Granted, Condon's been accused, in some quarters, of "ethnic profiteering," i.e. playing Rom music, even though he isn't of Eastern European descent—although he's never pretended to
be something he's not—while Adler performs in the traditional,
i.e. universal, singer/songwriter style. In any case, in the live context, the two would make for an intriguing double-bill.

And I'm thinkin' about going home
And I'm thinkin' about when next I will roam.
-- Flugente, "I'm Thinking About Going Home"

Endnote: I first encountered the phrase "ethnic profiteering"
in Ira Robbins' Trouser Press biography of the House of Pain
(I penned the entries on Nick Drake and the Beta Band).

Hmmm, Irish-Americans rapping about...being Irish-Americans. It's hard for me to see what's so problematic about that. If anything, the group became less interesting when they dropped the Irishness by the wayside; it was their ace in the hole. For my take on the whole House of Pain phenomenon, please click here.

Images from Spin (Condon) and Flugente (Adler). Click the Spin link to download an MP3 of Beirut's "Postcards From Italy." Also, Adler's publicist reports that he now lives in Manhattan. Nonetheless, the AMG profile cites Brooklyn (guess he moved).

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