Willie "Loco" Alexander

East Main Street Suite

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Vocalist/pianist Alexander is less a singer/songwriter in the typical sense; stylistically, he is all over the map, and in many instances, at the same time. Not at all avant, he does bring up some challenging musical vistas in the background with his Persistence of Memory "Orchestra": a three-piece band (no bassist) of woodwind players Ken Field and Mark Chenevert, guitarist/drummer/synthesist Jim Doherty, and trumpeter Herb Pomeroy on two tracks. Alexander acts like he'd like to be a jazzman, but he uses definite rock and old R&B beats. While his piano playing is spare and uninviting, the group does add interesting colors. His voice is not that attractive; it's actually quite crass, guttural, and grungy, like a mix between Iggy Pop and John Lennon, with traces of John Cale, Lou Reed, or Captain Beefheart heard on occasion. There are distinct Velvet Undergound-type references and similarities: Cale-like gibberish married to stalking rhythms for "Bagabega"; dense, train rhythms and multiphonic psychedelic layers with gargoyle vocals during "People Everyday"; and "Heroin"-esque inquisition elements shading "Who Killed Deanna" (in Somerville, MA) in Velvet Underground modes. An industrial backdrop in a wackier Beefheart stance with the phrase "do the doggett" centers "Eat What You Can"; a basic R&B tenor from Chenevert butters up "Bass Rocks"; and a deliberate New Orleans shuffle buttresses "Ocean's Condo #2." Pomeroy plays on "Condo" and the spacey, light Miles Davis Bitches Brew-like funk "Amber & Ebony." The tracks suggestive of Lennon are the 3/4 "All Blues" figure of "Doll Mountain" and the doleful "For My Sister" with piano lines repeated over and over. The best music is heard on the instrumentally hip "WA Anyway," as heavily formed piano chords fire up another swaggering tenor solo from Chenevert. Also notable is the rocking "Josephine & Jono," which sports nuclear ruminations and talking blues from Alexander รก la Tom Waits with a beautifully conceived flute (Field) and clarinet (Chenevert) line fluttering underneath. At his most ridiculous, Alexander hacks at "Honeysuckle Rose" in indistinguishable and undistinguished fashion, which is pretty much an insult to legendary composers Fats Waller and Andy Razaf. This music might have worked in the '60s, but it likely won't fly for anyone at this point but perhaps old hippies who can't find this type of non-rap, non-heavy, two-beat rock music anymore. Ambitious yes, but whether or not it is effective and endearing is up to the listener.

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