The 1997 film Hands on a Hard Body documented a quirky east Texas competition where 24 contestants compete to see who can keep their hand on a pickup truck the longest; whoever lasts the longest wins the truck. The documentary became a cult classic and the competition started to filter into pop culture, popping up in sitcoms and other fictional constructs, and it eventually made its way to Broadway in the form of a musical featuring a book by Doug Wright, lyrics by Amanda Green, and music by Green and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio. It's a curious mix for a curious musical, one that manages to have a laugh at the competitors without being condescending; one that certainly has aspects of a Great White Way musical, but also still has the loose, rootsy sensibility of Anastasio. More than anything, this feels like a revival of the hippie musical of the early '70s, some weird mix of Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, and Phish. This music can actually get a little funky -- fueled by a pumping organ, "My Problem Right There" actually rocks hard, "Burn That Bridge" swings with the gritty grace of a roadhouse blues band -- and at times, this is an uncanny re-creation of forgotten '70s sensibilities (the title track is a bit of a ringer for Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show). And, as an album, that's the joy of Hands on a Hard Body: it's a clever, knowing journey through the sounds and styles of classic rock culture, all filtered through the prism of Broadway.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
|Hands On A Hardbody|