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The New Standards
Rock And Roll
Princess Records
www.thenewstandards.com


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 rock tracks.

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… So anyway… 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.

-Embo Blake

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