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Charles Douglas
31 Flavors
No. 6

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 sound.

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.

-Jennifer Conrad

Track Listing:

    Minor Wave

  1. New Attitude
  2. If
  3. King Of Industry
  4. Luxury
  5. Minor Wave
  6. Super High
  7. In With The New
  8. Groom Lake
  9. Anywhere Right Now
  10. Where The Sky Touches The Ground
  11. Shotgun
  12. Lullaby
  13. When I See Her Again
  14. Volume & Tone
  15. Hey Alise
  16. The Burdens of Genius

  17. Crest Of A Wave
  18. Name
  19. Girl (Of The World)
  20. Drivin’ Around
  21. The Rabbit Never Gets The Carrot
  22. Suicide Note
  23. Monkey Island
  24. Dennis Wilson
  25. Last Stand
  26. The Golden Age
  27. Living In A Hole
  28. Henry Lee
  29. Prince
  30. Go
  31. Spiders & Snakes
  32. Octopus (Cease To Exist)

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