Ashtray Boy

Macho Champions

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The hilarious cover photo, showing Lee and some bandmates' faces superimposed on various body-builders physiques, captures the nutty humor that Ashtray Boy lets to the surface more than once on its sophomore release. At this point Lee had fully established his two separate bands; the Australian version, with Tallis on bass and Johnston on drums, recorded the majority of the songs, while the unchanged Chicago lineup tackled the rest with the same elan from before (the solid hipswing of "Eddie" is especially a fun joy). Perhaps by means of comparing and contrasting, Suite's "Little Nature Child" reappears here recorded by the Australian band as the "meat and potatoes mix." It's faster-paced than the original version and lacks the sitar which cropped up at points, as well as adding backing vocals; while not per se better than the Suite take, it's a fine alternate read of the song. Tallis and Johnston aren't always so forceful; on other songs like "I Am Sponge" and "Walrus," they maintain the basic shuffle n' groove familiar from the first album quite well. Trevor Ramsey adds amusingly loungey sax riffs to the Australian tunes, while off in Chicago Dave Crawford does the same job as well. Lee is still merrily addicted to tender and witty tales of love and life, and as always, his winning, deep-but-not-doomy vocals serve him perfectly well. Standouts this time around include "Amy Grant Super Number," a funky fantasy of semi-lust towards the Christian pop singer, and "Song for Rupert," about the English and Australian kids' lit favorite. The hands-down winner, though, is "Paunch," a sweet and silly chugger reflecting on growing old and getting stuck with the titular item. Sample lyrics: "How can you love me, when these days there's so much more of me?"

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