Gordon Zacharias, who records and performs under the name Fan Modine, often likes to work on a grand scale, and one of the reasons his 2011 album Gratitude for the Shipper took nearly seven years to complete was it took him ages to pare the ornate recordings down to a workable size and shape. The experience may have taught Zacharias something about the virtues of concision; the fourth Fan Modine album, 2014's Cause Célèbre, is his most compact full-length to date, clocking in at just under a half-hour and featuring the backing of a lean, versatile trio (Alex Maiolo on guitar, Joah Tunnell on bass, and Tony Stiglitz on drums). Cause Célèbre is a more efficient Fan Modine effort, but the melodic sense of the songs is still very much the same, conjuring lush '60s-influenced pop with clever hooks and well-detailed arrangements, while Zacharias' vocals and lyrics have an arch, witty edge that could win him a seat at the smart pop Algonquin Round Table if there were such a thing. "One Company Town," "Jandals," and "I'll Be Your Villain" are tougher and more straightforward than might be expected from Zacharias, but they're clever and melodically pleasing in the tradition of his best work, and "Skip" and "shut-ins" are graceful and mature, marvelous pop miniatures that use their spare construction as a virtue. The closer, "Rich Girls in Wellingtons," ranks with the best and most pleasurable tracks Fan Modine have offered us to date, and just about anyone should check out an album with a line as acidly witty as "I'll be your Dylan/And you can be Donovan." Fan Modine have discovered small is beautiful, and Cause Célèbre proves that's fact and not theory.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming