Dave Edmunds

Subtle as a Flying Mallet

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Taking the one-man band aesthetic to an extreme, Dave Edmunds recorded nearly all of his second album, Subtle as a Flying Mallet, on his own, hiring a bassist and a drummer for only a pair of tracks. Edmunds took several years to complete the record, probably because it took a considerable amount of effort to re-create these songs so thoroughly -- he spends so much attention on detail that he refuses to change the sex on "Da Doo Ron Ron." Alternating between Spector classics, the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, and a variety of R&B, country, and pop numbers, Edmunds hits on all the styles of the late '50s and early '60s, but he spends so much time on duplicating the sound that he sucks the joy out of the music; it is positively eerie to hear these songs performed by one man, who spent weeks overdubbing himself to sound like his own wall of sound. And the main problem with Subtle as a Flying Mallet is that these are not reinterpretations; they are re-creations, and there's little point in hearing a one-man version of rock classics if he offers no new ideas. When Edmunds works with obscure material, like the Chordettes' "Born to Be with You," or with newer items like Nick Lowe's "She's My Baby," the results are better, because the songs are less familiar, which makes his painstaking production exciting, but his isolation makes Subtle as a Flying Mallet sound less like a revival and more like a creepy science experiment.

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