Stan Ridgway

Neon Mirage

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Even though he'll always be best known as the original frontman for Wall of Voodoo who brought a skewed, spaghetti western sensibility to new wave in the early ‘80s, Stan Ridgway has been a solo singer/songwriter for a lot longer than his WoV tenure, having released his first solo album in 1986. There's always been a sort of Raymond Chandler/film noir feeling to Ridgway's narratives, and that remains true on Neon Mirage. Over the years, there's also been a gradual stylistic shift in Ridgway's work, with a greater incorporation of rootsy, often-acoustic flavors: folk, country, and blues templates have become an increasingly prevalent part of Ridgway's musical makeup, and those quirky-but-earthy tendencies are present on Neon Mirage, as well. "This Town Called Fate," for example, comes off like the theme to the film that Sergio Leone forgot to make, mixing a modified Johnny Cash boom-chicka-boom beat with an Ennio Morricone mood that harks back so some of Wall of Voodoo's work. Folkie ballad "Halfway There" runs on a blend of acoustic guitar and sawing fiddle, while the country shuffle "Wandering Star" is peppered with steel guitar swoops, and the title track is an instrumental that seems to be cut from the same imaginary Morricone-soundtrack cloth as "This Town Called Fate." Of course, other elements come into play over the course of the album, from the bossa nova groove of "Desert of Dreams" to the dusty desert reggae of "Flag Up on a Pole," but the only misstep on Neon Mirage is a mysteriously motivated cover of Bob Dylan's "Lenny Bruce," one of the master songwriter's least impressive works. Still, when a Dylan tune is the worst track on your album, you must be doing all right.

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