Leo has always been prolific, but for whatever reason I never really appreciated the work he did with Chisel or on his first outings with the Pharmacists, and while I think this release is very good, some of it still makes me wince a bit. To be clear, Leo is freakin’ talented, an aggressive, prolific songwriter capable of writing melodies of great acrobatic skill. Listening to his songs is the closest musical equivalent to watching a trapeze artist cut a convoluted swath through net-less circus air since the early work of Elvis Costello.
Unfairly or not, his devotion to re-creating a ‘classic’ pop sound — rooted in old mod and soul music — is a persistent handicap, at least for me. I swear if he were a turntablist he’d be celebrated as a young genius, which he probably deserves to be anyway. It’s just that the formalism of his work is sometimes too stifling; when he soars, he really soars, and when he doesn’t, he sounds confined or trapped by stylistic conventions.
Anyway, that’s all quibbling, because if nothing else, I’m completely impressed by the lead-off track on “Tyranny,” and can’t stop listening to it. It’s called “Biomusicology,” (an MP3 version of it is generously provided at his Web site); it definitely soars and — this is where the conceit of my earlier trapeze analogy really pays off — it’s as thrilling as any high wire act.
Death to the Pixes
So long as I’m writing about music, I should also comment on the big news this past week that the Pixies are re-forming for some shows or a tour or a new album or something like that. Band reunions are stupid and I’ve never enjoyed them, at least not if the break-up of the band lasted anything longer than three years, and the Pixies have long since passed that expiry date. I don’t begrudge them the opportunity to capitalize on their legacy, especially after watching everybody from talentless blowhards like Nirvana to worthy contenders like the White Stripes make good cash from it. I just hope they just don’t make complete and utter embarrassments of themselves in the process.