My first thought when I saw that there were 31 tracks on
this CD was that it seemed a little indulgent. And it would
be, if this record wasn’t crammed with 31 tasty little rock
songs that kept me listening through the whole 72 minutes.
The opening lines From now on I won’t be so depressed;
I’ll be cool. I’ve got a whole new attitude set the tone
for an album of easy-going sing-along rock & roll. Sung
for the most part in an endearing monotone, Charles Douglas’
31 Flavors leaps across musical genres. Some tracks
anticipate the current electro craze ("If", "In
With The New") while others are straight-up rock ("When
I See Her Again"), and others feature trade fancy electronics
for a lilting piano ("Suicide Note"). "Henry
Lee", a hate note to a former employer, has a retro disco
Occasionally Douglas shifts into a screech falsetto ("Lullaby")
or a robotic mode that would fit into Beck’s album
Midnight Vultures ("King Of Industry"), but
more often than not the album transports Douglas’ solid-albeit-generic
voice into wildly different contexts.
The fact that this album features jolly songs about girls
and partying (see "Anywhere Right Now" with the
line I talked to this girl; she looked like Drew Barrymore)
is hard to reconcile with the circumstances under which it
was made. Douglas grew up in Dayton, OH and formed half of
the noisy rocker duo Vegetarian Meat. Then he went
to Brown, where drugs and a nervous breakdown got the best
of him. During these years, sometime in the mid-90s, he released
solo two albums, Minor Wave and The Burdens Of Genius.
After cleaning up, he released a third solo album, enlisting
the services of former Velvet Underground drummer Moe
Tucker on drums and as a producer. The Lives Of Charles
Douglas garnered a great deal of buzz and Lou Reed
comparisons. Riding on that clout, he re-released his first
two efforts on one disc—31 Flavors.
The second half of 31 Flavors, apparently written
when he as deeper into his addiction, does take on a slower,
more pleading quality in some places. "Crest Of A Wave"
finds the singer reaching out for a connection (Come with
me and we’ll walk into the sea), as does "Name"
(I wanna know your name).
Other songs are just a little looser and crazier than on
the preceding half. "Monkey Island" talks of being
stranded on a deserted island with monkeys. "Prince,"
an anthem stylistically straight out of 1984, is a tribute
to Prince, one of his favorite performers ever.
Douglas recorded the two albums that comprise 31 Flavors
at home, playing most of the instruments himself. The result
is a very personal catalogue of his interests, idiosyncrasies,
and talents. Though it hardly manages a coherent statement,
there’s enough potential here to make me want to track down
The Lives Of Charles Douglas.
- New Attitude
- King Of Industry
- Minor Wave
- Super High
- In With The New
- Groom Lake
- Anywhere Right Now
- Where The Sky Touches The Ground
- When I See Her Again
- Volume & Tone
- Hey Alise
The Burdens of Genius
- Crest Of A Wave
- Girl (Of The World)
- Drivin’ Around
- The Rabbit Never Gets The Carrot
- Suicide Note
- Monkey Island
- Dennis Wilson
- Last Stand
- The Golden Age
- Living In A Hole
- Henry Lee
- Spiders & Snakes
- Octopus (Cease To Exist)
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