While this writeup is about the modern home recording pioneer R. Stevie Moore's new album, Fifteen Tons, this is decidedly not a review of the work. Two criteria exclude me from being qualified to write something in the way of a review: First, I am an unapologetic, dyed-in-the-wool RSM fan. As such, I could never claim to even be interested in contributing a disinterested perspective on the artist's music. I enjoy all the creative twists and turns Moore takes on their own merits, and feel it would be a pointless exercise to categorize or rate them. Second, I am lucky enough to make a brief appearance on the release, playing drums on the track "Boysage".
So while I won't claim to provide my readers with a conventional review, I am eager to explore just some of what I find most striking about the new work upon my first of many listenings. The release consists of 19 songs, 18 of which are Moore's. Track 3, entitled "Be Your R. Stevie Moore" is the work of Japanese artist Boys Age, and pairs with Moore's earlier mentioned "Boysage". This clever and catchy coupling, incidentally, will be released on vinyl this summer through Bleeding Gold Records.
Lyrically, there is a highlight in the characterstic RSM exploration of art vs. commercialism ("Why do the little guys always want to be...suc-cess-ful?") found in "Grammy", which includes everything from name drops as diverse as Kenny Rogers, John Denver, and Snoop Dogg, to the unofficial proclamation of Howard Stern fans everywhere, "Baba Booey!". "Bathroom" sounds like the lost Led Zeppelin instrumental gem you've somehow never heard, and the unexpected and evocative chord changes of "Mile High Club A8" serve as a great reminder that RSM is the real deal, and seemingly able to create poignant, emotionally charged music at will.
"FAKE" is sure to befuddle and/or delight listeners in equal measures, and appears to be a spontaneous, 7 and a half minute spoken word and musical improvisation caught on tape (or is it fake?). This offering is indicative of Moore's renowned eagerness to embrace chance and filter it through a lens of humor, something he puts masterfully on display in an appendix of sorts to the album with "Pricing". "Pricing" is apparently a recorded response of Moore's to a listener's lengthy and unsolicited Facebook editorial that RSM music is quite often overpriced online. In brilliant R. Stevie Moore fashion, this response (a verbatim reading of the comment, without any musical accompaniment) was posted for online purchase -- at $2.00.
Tracks like "Thanks for Playing" and "When Wife" bring with them a rocking muscularity that provides a pleasing juxtaposition with the looser, spoken word pieces, and the entire collection is easily listenable in one sitting. My words here are -- of course -- just scratching the surface of such a fun, irreverent, modern, and rewarding work , but why spend more time reading about the music when you can listen to it first-hand?
Thanks, as always, for staying tuned in!