Philip Jeays

Mr. Jeays

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Dead pop stars. They either fade into distant memory, a scratchy voice on a misfiled 45, or else they're lionized beyond all reasonable horizons, until a handful of hits become the complete works of Shakespeare, and their every last stoned ramble becomes a Lutheran edict on the doors of the church. But where do they themselves go thereafter? That is the question that exercises the mind, and Philip Jeays, who asks it with the storming "Faust's a Singer," doesn't answer it. But simply singing about it unleashes the demons as he kicks off his first album since 2003's Fame with what might well be rock & roll's next national anthem, a headlong collision between Jacques Brel's "Jackie" and Marc Almond's "The Idol" in a deliciously twisted sea of breakneck imagery: "The singer dies. Oh, tragic loss. Who gives a damn? Who gives a toss?" No disappointments, no upsets, no great changes. Jeays mapped out his musical territory back on his debut album, a broadly delineated canvas that took the double-barreled punch of Brel (again) and Jake Thackray as its launch pad, but only in as much as the essential ingredients remain the same -- humor, hubris, bitterness, brevity, the absurdity of everyday life, and the importance of noticing the little things. Each album occupies its own private universe, and if Mr. Jeays seems somehow more cynical than its predecessors, then what better reflection of its time could there be? "The Antelope," "Love and Marriage," and the hideously humbling "Seven Sides of Aging" each tap emotions that you really weren't expecting to be opening today, while the closing title track, strummed on a guitar line that recalls Marc Bolan's luscious "Life's a Gas," offers up a ghastly premonition of old age and senility that echoes the kind of song David Bowie might have written before he was famous. It's a haunting muse, and not only because it's so cruelly funny. It's also painfully honest, and that's an attribute that few singer/songwriters ever string out for more than an album or two. Jeays has now kept the quality razor-sharp and taut for five (count them) albums. And Mr. Jeays, like each of the four CDs that have preceded it, is his best one yet.

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