Amy X Neuburg & Men

Sports! Chips! Booty!

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This album, Amy X Neuburg's second with her group of Men, is nothing short of a quirky, intelligent pop masterpiece. The cabaret theme exposed on the album cover is fully explored within, as much in the relationship between the lead singer and her musicians as in the number of styles brushed. It gives the illusion of an avant-revue. Neuburg still leads the way, thanks to her impressive voice and witty songwriting, but the Men take more room; they feel more like a group. Only Herb Heinz (guitars) and Joel Davel (MIDI mallets) made it to the second level, joined by Micah Ball on Chapman stick and J.T. Quillan III, credited for "ambient personality" along with backing vocals. The album's track list mixes wacky pop songs, wackier interludes, and a couple of really surprising covers. After the initial curtain-riser of a title track, "Big Barbecue" gives a cynical wink at backyard America -- the undisputed highlight of the album, with lines like "I've got volleyball and tetherball and revolution action/So honey get your mask on and be a part of it." "Naked Puppets," "I Know You," and "Baby" pursue the cabaret theme through excellent vocal parts and the stupidest show tricks (all to the listener's delight!), reaching a peak in the mutating barbershop quartet "The Shower Song." Woven into the songs are elements of new wave, progressive rock, and the avant-garde pop of Slapp Happy. The version of "Alabama Song" closing the album has more to do with David Bowie's cover than the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill original. The big surprise is King Crimson's "Waiting Man," as Neuburg nails Adrian Belew to the ground. Highly recommended.

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