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Barry Adamson
Back To The Cat
Central Control
www.barryadamson.com


Steeped in film noir and styles borrowed from cool cats spanning recent decades, it's no surprise that Adamson's compositions show up in movies (Natural Born Killers, Lost Highway) and TV soundtracks (Nip/Tuck). The sought-after composer spent his formative years in Howard Devoto's post-punk band Magazine, followed by a stint with Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds (and let's not forget Visage). As Adamson tells it in his song "Civilization", "I must've broke the heartstrings of a thousand bass guitars." Back To The Cat is an energizing mix of Rat Pack smarm and seductive soul with superb organ throughout. The sinister bent is very thinly veiled by cabaret showmanship and modernized rhythms. Adamson's impeccable phrasing, acidic delivery and tone compliment his masterful lyrical prowess.

Played like a midnight run in the naked city, "The Beaten Side of Town" is like the best case sexual scenario, starting in with whispers and moans, building up to a pounding, almost violent crescendo, and dropping suddenly to a satisfied growl. The mind-blowing peak of this guy-on-the-lam tale has the vocals dancing dangerously through the traffic of the honking horn section, neon lights a-blinking. A bassline is all sneaking footsteps, eerie flute and burlesque drum rhythms make it all real seedy. "Straight Til' Sunrise" is cute in a Robbie Williams way the first couple of times, but ends up being skipped ever after on account of schmaltz. The prancing Todd Rundgren rhythm never lets up, and the sixties pop orchestra overrides the hidden dark message. "Spend a Little Time" is a sick piece of beauty, thrilling first by its Georgie Fame dance party feel, it ups the ante when the twisted story plays out. Tucked away neatly amongst the handclaps and sax is the happiest song ever about killing a guy. Aside from the first ever reference to Schopenhauer in song, Adamson sneaks a triple entendre in, "Killing my neighbor just an hour ago/ he mentioned something 'bout a spade and a hoe."

South Park's former Chef Isaac Hayes can now regret not only his Scientological hypocrisy, but also that Adamson's melded his badass soundtrack funk with Peter Gunn/Spyhunter coolness. "Shadow of Death Hotel" should be the next Bond theme, though it's far too hip for that franchise. The slow dancer "I Could Love You" comes in with a dead-on Bowie whisper, shifting into hiccupped phrasing from Adamson's old pal Nick Cave before breaking down in a Blixa Bargeld screech. "Walk on Fire" fits in nicely with the Austin Powers, Aston-Martin and martini set. As usual, there's a subtle punchline, "I'm just a pretty man who can't say no/ yeah ask my social workers and they'll tell you so." There's an updated gospel tinge to "Civilization," and while it's the most upbeat number, cynicism shows Adamson is thankfully not without sin. On "People" he shares Nick Cave's sentiment "People they ain't no good." But in his telling, Adamson implicates himself in a Scott Walker meets Lou Reed tryst. "Psycho_Sexual" sums up the drama, night club jazz and sonic aphrodisiacs in one slow-burning torch-song. It even makes lyrical reference to track 1, in preparation for the presumed repeat performance.

Back To The Cat is back to Adamson's initial solo effort, Moss Side Story. No trip-hop silliness, though the avant-garde instrumental "Flight" left me as cold as Miles Davis' later work. Minor dispersions are dwarfed by stylized forays into genre sub-genus. The pristine arrangements and production are startling. Honestly, with this sort of mood-altering substance, who needs Viagra?

-Ewan Wadharmi


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