Californian Roy Zimmerman is a satirical singer in the vein of Tom Lehrer (who endorses him). He recently released his seventh solo album, Real American, and I’m happy to say that Zimmerman has lost none of the brilliance us fans have come to expect.
The disc has 13 tracks of which 3 are spoken political comedy. My favourite is the live-recorded boogie tune “Socialist!”, which recalls “I’ll Pull Out” from Zimmerman’s previous album. It’s sung in the voice of a hillbilly Republican who sneers at all the socialists in the audience. They’ve driven to the gig on public streets, gone to public schools, visited Yellowstone national park, yep, they’re all “taxatin’, appropriatin’, regulatin’, nanny-statin’ socialists”.
Another highlight is a Caribbean limbo tune about Rush Limbo, err, Limbaugh: “How low can you go?”. And of course Zimmerman doesn’t forget to make fun of the home crowd on one tune, “The Orange County Rolling Acres Senior Center Cannabis Club”, accompanied by ukulele and upright bass.
Likewise beloved by skeptics and lefties is Philadelphian multi-instrumentalist George Hrab (did you know he speaks fluent Ukrainian?). His new album, Trebuchet, is available on-line as a 70-minute mp3 file for anyone who wants to listen before they buy. 17 tracks. The title may call to mind 80s death metal band Bolt Thrower, but most of the music here is studio-polished 70s funk and prog. King Crimson fans, take note! I particularly like “Far”, about astronomical distances, “Death From the Skies” where Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer appears, and the crimsonesque instrumental “One Hypnopompic Jerk”.
Roy Zimmerman is mainly a comedic singer (though he does a few serious numbers as well, live and on other discs), and he’s never personal. Hrab does get personal on the new album. His lyrics won’t make you laugh much: they vary in tone from playful to serious, and can be quite poignant as in “Small Comfort”, about an atheist mourning a loved one. Both men are accomplished musicians and arrangers, and neither makes any claim to musical innovation: they move effortlessly among Anglo-American pop music styles of the past century and there’s nothing in the production of either album that sticks out as an attempt to sound hip for 2010. (In fact, the only thing I can think of that would signal our musical era would be heavy use of digital autotuning, perish the thought.) Both Roy Zimmerman’s Real American and George Hrab’s Trebuchet are lovely pieces of work and have my recommendations.
Read my review of Zimmerman’s third-latest album too. The Skepticality podcast offers a long interview with Hrab about his new album.
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