Stan Ridgway

Mosquitos

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If Raymond Chandler and Raymond Carver had somehow fused their literary sensibilities and branched out into songwriting, they might have conjured a lyrical voice something like Stan Ridgway's, a man with an uncanny knack for capturing the nooks and crannies of life among the lost and lowly in Los Angeles, telling their stories with genuine understanding but no illusions. Mosquitos was Ridgway's second solo album after leaving Wall of Voodoo, and it was a far grander and more ambitious work than anything he'd made up to that point. Produced by Ridgway and Joe Chiccarelli, Mosquitos has a rich, expansive sound compared to the claustrophobic tension generated by Wall of Voodoo, and in the instrumental fanfare "Heat Takes a Walk," the proto-ska strut of "Calling Out to Carol," the cinematic atmospherics of "A Mission in Life," the woozy horns that weave their way through "The Last Honest Man," and the NorteƱo-gone-psychedelic arrangement of "Newspapers," this album gave Ridgway a broader and more colorful musical canvas than he'd been able to work with before. At the same time, the rhythms were as edgy and insistent as Wall of Voodoo, and these postcards of lives in the balance had more shadings than his previous work, but their bitter emotional impact was as sharp as ever, from the doomed romantic triangle of "Peg and Pete and Me" and the disillusioned barkeep of "A Mission in Life" to the physically and emotionally broken protagonist of "Can't Complain." Mosquitos may have been a bit too subtle and moody for the audience that discovered Ridgway through Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio," but at its best, this feels like the soundtrack to the best, most harrowing, and most heartbreaking film ever made about Los Angeles.

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