For several years before their first album came out, the Coctails were almost strictly a live act, purveying their smart and not-as-ironic-as-you-might-think mix of exotica and experimental music in clubs throughout Chicago. For their final show, New Year's Eve 1995, the group gave themselves a going away party at their most popular haunt and released the set as their last album. Live at Lounge Ax is a lengthy overview with favorites from their four previous albums (almost all of which sound nearly identical to their studio counterparts, proof of how tightly arranged these tunes are) and eight new tunes. (One of these, a medley of Raymond Scott's classics "Powerhouse" and "The Penguin" is an excellent tribute to one of the band's most obvious inspirations.) The pristine live sound by Chicago scene fixture Bob Weston makes the album nearly as sonically impressive as any of their studio albums, and the obvious good humor of the music -- these guys are clearly enjoying themselves to no end -- keeps Live at Lounge Ax from both the occasional over-seriousness of leader Archer Prewitt's other band, the Sea and Cake, and the jokey insincerity of the later crop of loungecore acts.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason