Harlan T. Bobo

Too Much Love

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    9
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On the surface, Harlan T. Bobo's Too Much Love could seem like just another breakup record, but once the music starts, it quickly transcends such labels. Ostensibly a record chronicling "the best and worst of loving Yvonne Bobo," Too Much Love is a breakup record whose musical tide mirrors the peaks and valleys of an emotional roller coaster. Cinematic and magical, opening track "Only Love" has a languid, nearly tropical sway that sounds like a clandestine jam session between David Lynch, Tim Burton/Danny Elfman, and Roy Orbison. Eerie and beautiful, the song is soft and sparse, but immediate and powerful. Nick Cave wishes his melancholy rang half as true as Bobo's. The simplest lines are often the sharpest. Bobo strikes a universal chord with the spoken intro of "Stop," declaring "I called you on the phone/Your roommate said you weren't at home/But I could hear you talking in the background." The album is populated with countless other lines that are equally heart-rending. He sings quietly, but with lyrics like this, there's no need to yell. Over the course of a few more songs, Bobo's hushed, talky vocal style begins to bring to mind Beck's softer moments. Unlike Beck, Bobo doesn't seem to get bogged down in self-conscious attempts to be an artfully eclectic hipster. An album highlight, the title track calls to mind a fiery, agitated take on American Music Club. Elsewhere, with dirty guitars, organ, and hoarse late-night vocals, "Mr. Last Week" rocks like something out of the Compulsive Gamblers' gritty back catalog (specifically "Mind in the Gutter"). Although there are plenty of musicians in the mix at any given moment, Too Much Love maintains an understated feel. The instruments and vocals all have plenty of breathing room. In an age when it's so easy, and often very tempting, to add endless layers, effects, and overdubs, Bobo's album sounds refreshingly easygoing and organic. Musically, the album is as thoughtful and nuanced as Bobo's lyrics. The ace musicianship is little surprise considering his group -- and guest musicians -- include current and former members of fine outfits such as Viva l'American Death Ray Music and the Reigning Sound.

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