Tommy Wallach's first a subtle, and then a not-so-subtle, subversive and no more evidence of that is needed than the quiet cynicism embodied in the very title to I Meant It to be Sweet, at which I grinned a vicious little smile, knowing full well what he was referring to. Then Cold as Christ welled up as the lead cut, and I started chuckling. Yep!, exactly as guessed, the guy's pen drips with Humanist concerns made piquant by homeopathic infusions of venom and canker designed to drive the hungry ghosts from audience and culture. You readily ingest the remedy but it isn't quite the modus expected, waves of relief tinged with shades of puzzlement, wondering why the hell you're evolving rather than just feeling better.
Kevin Ayers, Andy Bown, Rupert Wates, and others abound in his work, which has been portrayed as "cerebral musical pop" but which I would typify as well beyond that, though simultaneous promo lit references to Andrew Bird, Ben Folds, and others are appropriate. The whole 'pop' gig is expanding so rapidly that language is beginning to fail, not to mention that most crits are pretty sloppy in their linguistics. Not only is Wallach's work unpigeonholable but he's recruited some equally border-crossing session work from Ben Davis of the tantalizing Cuddle Magic (here), Giulio Carmassi from Pat Metheny's Unity Group, esteemed guitarist Chuck Loeb's daughter Lizzy, Albert Hammond Jr.'s percussionist Jeremy Gustin, and so on. More, the trippy Tim Burtony/Alice in Wonderlandy/Charmed video for this CD's Whisper was so artfully done that it was accepted by the Guggenheim for exhibition. Take a look for yourself:
That is one cool vid for one cool song, and if everything about it entices you, then the CD entire will mesmerize, an exercise in class, creepiness, glory, depression, moralism, and shenanigans. Wallach oft adopts a stage presence in his singing, more pronouncedly theatrical and thus more literary, more dramatic—rock operatic screaming, after all, accomplishes only just so much. He's very well buttressed by the band tracking his every move and then by his own multi-instruments, especially the organ, oft as dead nuts emotional as he. In the end, I Meant It is a concept work, even though it isn't. So well cohered is everything that it chapters itself—yes, even unto the Big Bang Theory mania of Whose Heart are You Breaking Tonight?. Someone pass this disc to Alice Cooper. Though in a much different vein, it just might remind him of what he was doing during the Welcome to my Nightmare period and its final last gasp, DaDa. I don't think it's a bridge too far to think he'd be inspired by this, and that would be a very good thing indeed.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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