Big Head Todd & the Monsters

Crimes of Passion

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On "Dirty Juice," the opening track from Big Head Todd & the Monsters' Crimes of Passion, one has to do a double-take to make sure it's not a ZZ Top album in the player. This happens in two other places on the set as well, on "Conquistador" and "Love Transmission." No, this is not a good thing, but there is plenty of good news as well. The other eight cuts here are among the most ambitious and beautiful that Todd Park Mohr and company have ever put to tape. It is shot through the album with the beautifully woven acoustic and electric guitars, the subtle synthesized ambiences and rhythms, and the organic juxtaposed with the electronic on tracks like the streetwise, shuffling, Caribbean-kissed strut of "Beauty Queen"; the sci-fi country music that emanates from "Drought of 2013"; the shimmering soul of "Angela Dangerlove"; the driving, off-kilter funk blues of "Come On"; the wispy, late-night folksy lounge groove of "Imaginary Ships"; the paranoid, post-Boz Scaggs R&B of "ICU in Everything"; the wispy, haunting, elegiac rock of "Lost Child Astronaut"; and the drifting, lilting, poignantly wrought folk song that is "Peacemaker's Blues." In all this is a very strong record that features three tracks that seem more a nod to the ghosts of the boogie jam band that was Big Head Todd rather than having much to do with the cats who laid these other tracks down. This album gives up its secrets slowly, but the payoff is big despite the cloying big rock & roll setbacks.

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