FAME Review: Stan Ridgway - Neon Mirage
Stan Ridgway - Neon Mirage

Neon Mirage

Stan Ridgway

A440 Records - CDA4401

Available from CD Universe.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Is it just me or does Stan Ridgway sound like he's Willie Nelson's son? Sometimes writes a bit like Willie, too. You may recall Stan from the old Wall of Voodoo group until he opted out and Andie Prieboy shuffled in. Since then, he's released a number of solo albums on a variety of labels, and this is the latest in that line.

Wall of Voodoo was an odd group, that's why we liked 'em in that recent-ish Age Of Oddness along with Devo, Tin Huey, Japan, Pere Ubu, and etc., but, as with many, he's since migrated closer to home bases previously eschewn, incorporating the quirkiness and askew visions formerly marking such characters as cats to pay attention to. Thus, in Desert Dream, you get a calypso beat with lounge jazz and uptempo folk rock, a tale of all the urban and suburban inanities we call 'normalcy'. Ridgway's an Angeleno and thus his scribing will tickle those living here in the SouthWest. I'm quite sure, even though he doesn't know 'em, he's portraying a whole buncha people I'm acquainted with here in Yuphattan Beach, a tony suburb of L.A., but those residing elsewhere will delight in the humorous poignancy of a culture so well entablatured, finding in it riffs on themes in their own environs.

Ah, but then there's his take on Dylan's tribute to Lenny Bruce. Truth be told, this wasn't Bobby's best set of lyrics, but the tormented god of comedians, Bruce, most definitely should be re-lionized every so many years, and Ridgway's undertaken to do just that. There's a good measure of darkness in all Stan's tongue-in-cheekery and otherwise smiling cynicism, though, and his crack backing band manages to sublimate that extremely well (including Dave Alvin on one cut), as there's a bite beneath the breeziness of so many of the smoothly rolling cuts. In point of fact, it's entirely possible that if Nick Cave had a much broader sense of humor and listened to Dan Hicks, he'd be Stan Ridgway—not a matter of 6 degrees but of the Nth degree in how closely intelligences tend to cluster.

You're going to find yourself unconsciously beginning to seat dance a few songs in because this guy's beats are that infectious, though the real surprise will come in understanding that he's codifying a gently progressive meld of various genres into the forward edge of an extremely attractive SouthWestern bouillabaisse that probably started with the Eagles and is here nearly finalized in a way no one quite expected.

Track List:

  • Big Green Tree
  • This Town Called Fate
  • Desert of Dreams
  • Halfway There
  • Turn a Blind Eye
  • Wandering Star
  • Flag on a Pole
  • Lenny Bruce
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Behind the Mask
  • Neon Mirage
  • Day up in the Sun
All songs written by Stan Ridgway except Lenny Bruce (Bob Dylan).

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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