Beard Bates

Lightyear's Tightrope

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The eclectic Beard Bates is a one-man home-studio eight-track show who actually has almost too many ideas, rather than another one of these class-project demos masquerading as a CD. The ex-Jilflirter singer makes your head spin, going from a banjo-infused bluegrass-tinged pop ditty to a soundtrack for a movie about raindrops or dew full of airy, pretty synths. Then the banjo comes back a-ringing on the very next track. And then a light dance-beat background supports a folk-rock guitar lead and faraway vocals that whisper behind it like someone mumbling under his breath. Then he does good-ol'-boy country out of honky tonks down Aly-bama way! Next it's instrumental/ambient/electronica/trance, then a sitar-spiced drone-pop song. My word! Most of the time, it's hard to digest, much less dig, a CD that more resembles a free-form FM station than one that flows from a coherent sonic narrative. But it all comes down to whether you have tunes and whether you can sing them, and that's what this guy does well that hoards of other home recorders don't. With a convincing voice that is reminiscent of Pete Townshend (think the vocal tone of Tommy's "Acid Queen"), full of the same old soul, and a harsh way of playing when he's going six-string instead of synth, Bates is as enjoyable as he is unpredictable.

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