Are You Real or Just Some Sort of Disgusting Fridge Magnet?

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A lengthy live album recorded in Landsberg, Germany, on September 17, 1996, the excellently titled Are You Real or Just Some Sort of Disgusting Fridge Magnet? is a low-key, intimate set of songs that shows off bandleader Alan Jenkins' songs in their best possible light. Onstage, away from the sometimes-distracting tendency toward audio experimentation that occasionally mars Creams' studio albums, the simple guitar-bass-organ-drums arrangements put the focus on Jenkins' surreal and often very funny lyrics. Comparisons to Robyn Hitchcock aren't unwarranted, but Jenkins is a considerably more cynical and direct bloke, as titles like "Mostly Crap" and "I Wish Marvin Gaye's Father Had Shot Me Instead" suggest. The bouncily sarcastic "Me and the GAAE," about animal rights activists, and the snotty "Mice" also feature Jenkins' real world preoccupations, which give his songs more bite than Hitchcock's more purely whimsical creations. These 23 tracks cover all phases of Creams' varied career, and even include a few tracks by Jenkins' earlier bands, the Chrysanthemums (besides "Marvin Gaye," "Big Binoculars," written by ex-bandmate Terry Burrows) and Ruth's Refrigerator (including the remarkably strange "Gro Haarlem Brundtland Wants Some Fish"). There's even a handful of covers, including a just-okay run through Guided By Voices' "Echoes Myron," a terrific Brit-pop take on They Might Be Giants' "Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes" and a pair of tunes by Jenkins' beloved Zombies, "Is This the Dream?" and "What More Can I Do?" The band plays well, with Blodwyn P. Teabag's heavily Leslied organ out in front of most of the arrangements, but the performance never really rises much above a relaxed informality. Given that, judging from the smattering of applause, the band was apparently playing in front of maybe 12 people, that's probably to be expected.

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