What do you get when you take a semi-jazz trio and set them to the
task of covering some of rock and roll music's finest - and not so
finest - songs? Well, you wind up with something resembling the brilliance
of Richard Cheese records, only lacking in the overall shmaltz
that Cheese brings to the table. The New Standards have taken
some fairly popular rock hits and re-imagined them in their own music-geek
way. Piano leads the trio, with doghouse bass fiddle and xylophone
(or one of the other instruments from the family xylophonica) ably
backing up and fleshing out the sound. While the sound is overall
a bit more loungy and jazzy than rock, there is an indelible mark
of rock-ness on the way that these songs are covered.
The album begins with The Velvet Underground's (arguably greatest
song) "Rock And Roll", and The New Standards do it up just
right. The piano bangs out the rhythm exactly as Lou Reed would
have liked. The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights"
is almost clichéd at this point, but TNS churns out a cleverly
re-aligned version of the wonderful song with vocalists trading lines
and xylophone clanging away. The band covers Elvis Costello's
"Watching The Detectives" in a slower, mellower vein and
then ramp up for a blistering cover of The Replacements' "Androgynous".
The most beautiful track on the album is the band's loose and sparse
version of Sam Cooke's amazing "Bring It On Home To Me"
that leads charmingly into a startlingly menacing and somewhat disquieting
version of The Clash's "London Calling". There are
a few more recent tracks, as well as a Lieber and Stoller
classic, but the meat of Rock And Roll lies in the earlier/classic
Dan Wilson lends his hand to record and produce the record,
making it sound like a slice of aural heaven, and causing us all to
wonder if he's done making music himself and ready to rely on making
others' records instead
if you have already
been hip to The New Standards, hearing and loving their first eponymous
record, or you are new to falling in love with the three music geeks
from the Midwest, Rock And Roll is a great piece of music.
There is enough substance to make the album stand on its own, and
more than enough kitschy, manic energy to keep the ear trained to
the speaker listen after glorious listen.
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