On the cover of Coin Opera's debut album, What Went Wrong with the Right, one-man band P. Blue Zusman sits at a bar, looking over at a blonde in a little black dress who is paying no attention to him. He has one hand to his head and the other on his drink. The image is surrounded by blackness. This turns out to be a good visual summary of Zisman's music, which contains frequent references to romantic couplings gone awry and troubles drowned in alcohol. Zisman strums rudimentary chords or picks out simple patterns on an electric or acoustic guitar and croons soothingly in his throaty tenor, sometimes double-tracking himself. Backup musicians Adam Siegel (bass) and Byron Reynolds (drums) sometimes drop in to give the music a full band sound. Zisman uses the basic musical structures to present simple lyrics that are simultaneously self-consciously literary, as titles like "For Esme with Scotch and Water" suggest. (Recall J.D. Salinger's 1950 short story "For Esmé with Love and Squalor.") He creates an endearing loser of a character who is constantly bucking himself up, even though he seems to be living marginally. Toward the end, he seems to be making progress. For one thing, he returns to Los Angeles, amazed that he misses it so much ("Want to Kiss L.A."). For another, in "Cigarette Butts and Rose Petals," the concluding song, he makes an inventory of the junk in his pockets and discovers that he got a girl's number last night! Thus, the story implied in the album cover has a happy ending. She'll probably break his heart just like all the others, but at least for now things are looking up.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann