This is the first we've heard from Richard as a leader in quite some time--1987, I think, when Real Time came out. In the meantime, he's worked with Matthew Sweet, given guitar lessons, produced a fine disc by Bibi Farber, and, apparently, been busy working on this. I don't know about you, but when I heard about this CD coming up for release, my main thought was something along the lines of "Richard Lloyd -> hot guitar album." I expected to be moved in places, touched by the songwriting, or melodies, or a sincere turn of phrase, but I was mainly looking for guitars, guitars, guitars!!! Reader, here they are. There are, it must be said, some surprises--the gestures of Zep homage in "Knockdown" for instance--but the guitars are here in abundance, and finely played, too. These aren't just guitars wanking into a vacuum, however--these are guitars at the service of songs, songs with hooks, even! And singable melodies! Word has it that Richard's been working on his singing voice, and while the picky among us may point out that his vocal tone hasn't changed (a sort of rough, reedy voice), he's definitely singing these tunes, as opposed to shouting them (as on previous efforts). A fine development, indeed. (One correspondant has pointed out that he might do well from a commercial point of view to get another vocalist in, but I can make allowances.)
OK. Guitars. What about the guitars, you ask. The guitars are glorious. Some fantastic solos here--"Torn Shirt" is a primo guitar freakout, smoking most of Richard's studio playing with Television, believe it or not. (It's not the same band, of course, but I have to say that the solo's hotter.) "She Loves to Fly" boasts a veritable slew of guitar parts that propel the song, and the similar (and old--the dB's covered this!) "I Thought" coasts atop a perfect power-pop section of guitars. Lyrics are forceful, positive, lusty, and occasionally dark-tinged. There are a few bits of "Raising the Serpent" that seem best for chuckles to me, but it doesn't stop me from enjoying the disc. It all ends on a surprisingly gentle, mournful piece, "Cortege," the tones of which put me in mind of Hendrix's "Wind Cries Mary" (my fave Hendrix tune, btw). This is entirely appropriate for historical reasons (and if you don't know 'em, you're missing some good stories), thematic reasons, and sequencing reasons--when it's all over, I want nothing more than to hit the Play button again, immediately. How many CDs can you say that about these days? Send thy $14 to "Upsetter Music" right now.
Speaking of Richard Lloyd, it turns out that this excellent guitarist is gigging regularly, with his own band, solo, and with Bibi Farber, a new guitar and songwriting talent. Haven't checked out her work yet, but it's on the list. I did, however, manage to pick up a copy of Richard's first solo LP, "Alchemy." It's way out of print, and I don't think it's been reissued on CD, except maybe in Europe. It's very good, of a piece with his later solo stuff. I do, however, find the synth lines kind of distracting, and IIRC they're happily absent on "Field of Fire" and "Real Time." His playing is good throughout, but my memory tells me that it's showcased somewhat more on the later two LPs. Gotta pull them and put them on. Word is that he's working on some new stuff, recording at home. I'll probably trumpet it here when it is released.