As frontman for the glammy garage rock act Cheap Time, prolific songwriter/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Novak has led his group through ceaseless touring and recording since its 2006 inception, churning out records on a regular basis and keeping the energy up with each new set of songs. In 2009, Novak released his comparatively more gentle and wispily psychedelic solo debut After the Ball, a collection of softer but still troubled melodies steeped in the courtly influence of outsider masters like John Cale and Kevin Ayers. Lemon Kid follows that album as well as the long-shelved Baron in the Trees, taking the glam stomp of Cheap Time and folding it into the obtuse pomp and Eno-informed take on pop music of his earlier solo material. The album comes on strong with a few fuzzy garage songs before third track "Night for Day" starts to show signs of the glam/psych synthesis that makes Novak's solo work so interesting. Cloudy piano figures drive the songs, meeting up with Bowie-esque guitar leads and blurty synths on tracks like the minute-long "Unfinished Memory" and the jumpy wah-wah punk of "Losing Charm." All of the songs are delivered with Novak's hearty sneering vocals, pushing their would-be sensitive moments into uglier territory, somewhere between the earliest Barrett-era Pink Floyd, Brian Eno's first two rock records, and the most tuneful moments of Novak's late friend Jay Reatard. Title track "Lemon Kid" in particular borrows blatantly from Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era Floyd. By the time standout track "Pictures on a Screen" rolls around, the album's brief song lengths and constant flow of different textures and beautifully mismatched sounds create a really nice and consistently fulfilling mood. The juxtaposition of anger and introspection is sweetened by stately pop hooks, and Lemon Kid showcases Novak's penchant for rapid-fire, high-potency melodies and lasting tunes, strong in the same way as contemporaries like Ty Segall and Gap Dream as well as the myriad of classic influences that spur the songs on.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas