Jim Infantino and Jim's Big Ego

(GADFLY 221)

Gadfly Records
P.O. Box 5231
Burlington, VT 05402

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by David Schultz (schultz@nssl.noaa.gov)

The liner notes to the title track of Jim Infantino's latest project say that the song is not about the ship, the Titanic. Instead, it is about the Titans who reside under the earth with Poseidon and Jim feels that sometimes he visits them. This explanation appears entirely plausible, considering some of the bizarre issues that Jim and his band, Jim's Big Ego discuss on their new release: "Big Chinos"-a homage to oversized casual slacks, "Normandy"-a submarine soldier's view of the allied invasion of France, "At the Funeral"-a description of the funeral of the narrator who committed suicide, and "Acid"-a discussion about why Jim has never tried LSD. Besides tackling a variety of topics, "Titanic" is also a blend of different genres ranging from Beck-like alternative ramblings in "Someday Cafe (dance mix)", to beat poetry in "ThingKing", to rap in "She Said, He Said", to rock in "Cat Named Boogers". It is this literary and musical diversity that illustrates why Jim Infantino was named the 1995 Artist of the Year by the National Academy of Songwriters.

"Titanic" is Jim's first live release, recorded entirely during two shows in June 1996 at the historic Club Passim in Cambridge, MA, but the quality of the production and the performance do not suffer as a result. In fact, there was apparently 100 minutes of material in consideration for the disc, but space constraints resulted in only 67 minutes (19 tracks) making the final cut. The longest song, clocking in at eight and a half minutes, "She Said, He Said", is a pleasant pop-rocker with a rap duet between Phil Broikos and Jim serving as a bridge. The tune is totally catchy, aided by ex-Story Jennifer Kimball's background vocals. Despite the length of the song, it does not drag, including references to such influences as the Beastie Boys, Push Stars, Vance Gilbert, Martin Sexton, Chronic Pleasure, and Ratsy.

Other features that set this disc apart from albums by other contemporary singer-songwriters: Jim's voice sounds vaguely like "Remain in Light"-era David Byrne, especially on such songs as "Panties", a monologue about why Jim prefers boxers to briefs, and "Acid". Although Jim's humor is usually on the dark, subtle side, he's a little more obvious on "You Rule", a back-handed complement to a woman who, as Jim says, "in a world of total dweebs, babe, you rule". In addition to well-crafted songs, Jim can also play a mean harmonica, as demonstrated by his solo in "Cat Named Boogers"; John Popper would be proud! The album closes with an upbeat sing-along sung by a child afraid of the "Meanies", who will "bite your head off".

Despite the rich tasteful instrumentation and the cobilling of Jim's Big Ego on "Titanic", it is easy to forget that the band only appears on six of the tracks. Jim is probably classified as a folk singer in your record store, but this is not your parent's folk music! The different genres and poetry that comprise the album are carefully interwoven. So listeners who like their contemporary singer-songwriters a little more unusual, and a lot more daring, will love "Titanic".

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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