Ray Mason

When the Clown's Work Is Over

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The first release on his own Captivating Music label, When the Clown's Work Is Over shows that Ray Mason isn't interested in slowing down as he heads into middle age. Still flipping through his rock Rolodex indiscriminately, Mason visits many of the bedrock American forms in this whirlwind workout. While he ultimately sacrifices focus to pursue his disparate interests, the overall mix is consistent, if not exceptional. The sound of Neil Young is probably approximated most frequently, as his thin high vocals are, at times, remarkably similar, and the burned-out folk-rock of the title track and "I Should Know the Way by Now" recall Young in his pastoral '70s heyday. Still, that's to say absolutely nothing of the Paul McCartney-ish piano pop of "I Own the Ending," the rollicking post-punk of "Up but So Loose," or the jumpy punkabilly of "Wrong Side of Real," none of which sound like they should even be coming from the same band. As such, it's a generally hit-or-miss formula, though Mason saves more than a few tracks with clever writing. Whether reasserting his confidence in himself as an independent artist or critiquing throwaway culture with his own pseudo-commercial jingle, Mason doesn't hurt himself with his lyrics. Still, an album this varied is bound to be uneven, making it an exceedingly pleasant, if ultimately inessential listen.

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