Cocktail Angst

Our Big Top Parade

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The Cocktail Angst quintet manages a pretty credible update/revival of 1950s-vintage exotica-tinged easy listening lounge music on Our Big Top Parade. Not as rock-oriented or eclectic as the Wayfarers, another New York area act that derived from similar inspirations in the 1980s, they're also not as cheesy as some other groups in the same style, like Combustible Edison. Certainly the cocktail-exotica elements are guaranteed by Tom Beckham's vibraphone, marimba, and melodica, as well as Tim Luntzel's acoustic bass. Pacing the band on this mostly original set is singer Toby Williams, who has the vocal chops of a top-line straight lounge chanteuse. The lyrics, though, have the kind of deadpan irony that probably would have sounded misplaced or out of time on actual mid-20th century easy listening albums, like the odes to "Bates Motel" (where Anthony Perkins wreaked his mayhem in Psycho) and showgirls who look like Tanya Harding in "Last Tango in Vegas." "Your mindlessness is driving me right out of my mind," Williams evenly croons on "Mindless," which also complains, without raising her temperature, "You're stepping on my foot, please, get out of my way." Plenty of samba and bossa nova rhythms, as well as some oddball sound effects and instrumental textures, decorate an eclectic production that manages to vary without deviating from a space age pop base. It's pretty hard to redeem John Denver's "Annie's Song" via the most radical reinterpretation, but Cocktail Angst tries, to the extent that the group virtually gives the lyrics an entirely different Latinate cocktail melody.

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