Rob Kendt

I'm Not Sentimental

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Kendt had a day job as a theater critic, so the self-confessed musical junkie has probably seen more than his share of bad musicals. That musical theater vibe shows up in his work, but he's also absorbed plenty of rock and Kurt Weill, so his tunes are more Sondheim dark than Rodgers & Hammerstein breezy. On the side Kendt composes and performs incidental music for theatrical productions, so his melodic and stylistic range on this album should come as no surprise. Droll, urbane, sophisticated, and musically omnivorous, Kendt makes music for grownups full of great melodies and witty wordplay. Kendt's flexible high tenor is casually understated and his keyboard work is perfectly suited to his own compositions with enough flourishes to keep your attention without overwhelming the songs. "Lullaby" is a salute to the insanity of living in a big city that alternates between the soothing music implied in the title and a raucous bridge full of big city clatter, provided by a pounding rock drumbeat with some sizzling cymbal work. "Pick Me" is a country 2-step with pedal steel that details the tribulations of a guy who's "available and sensitive and invisible" as he watches the local musicians scoop up all the pretty girls. "My Life in Pants" gets a sprightly klezmer arrangement wherein the singer details his physical shortcomings, and wonders if he'd have better luck if he had a woman's body instead of his own. It's probably the first song to deal with gender reassignment surgery in a light, playful manner. "Quiet Girl" is a rock samba with a breezy "la la la" chorus, a fantasy about approaching the most beautiful woman in the room with images that portray the queasy emotional push and pull men feel as they imagine how various pickup lines might work, before they silently slink back into the shadows. All Kendt's lyrics examine the vicissitudes of modern romance, and while the outcome is usually bleak, his insights and lighthearted cynicism make every vignette sparkle. The two medleys he put together for the album show off his wide-ranging musical intelligence and skewed sensibility with covers. "Oops I Did Bungalow Bill" combines Britney Spears' "Oops I Did It Again" and the Beatles "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill." Combining a catchy, if almost unlistenable, teen hit with a tune from rock's most venerable icons that uses the same chord changes for its chorus is just short of genius. He also sings "Only the Lonely" by the Motels over the changes of Erik Satie's "Je Te Veux," giving the tune an odd cabaret aura, accented by a waltzing string section. These medleys, taken together with his own highly literate and delightfully melodic work, mark the debut of a singular new cabaret talent.

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