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February 07


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Mike Dillon’s Go-Go Jungle
Battery Milk

Hyena Records

Alt-jazz is a bit like dating your first cousin: Either you’re into it or you’re not. While the multi-talented, multi-instrumented musicians that make up the funk-jazz fusion group Mike Dillon’s Go-Go Jungle sometimes sound like a ‘60s sci-fi movie sound track gone berserk, there’s no doubt they have absolutely no intention of stopping, whether or not anyone’s listening, and if that ain’t jazz, then nothin’ is.

Backed by plenty of excellent sax-a-ma-phone work from KC native Mark Southerland and the pure funkadellic bass vocals of J.J. “Jungle” Richards, Battery Milk doesn’t even get started (much like Friday night at the Foundation) until the noir-bizarre third track “The Blame Game” kicks in, and from then out it’s damn hard to ignore, especially with tracks like the freak-out “Lunatic Express” and the Tom Waits-ish “Stupid Americans.”

Sure, this jazz-stuff is probably hard to get the hipster gang to swallow, but since Southerland’s significant other is Midtown uber-hipster artist Peregrine Honig herself (who also did the cover art for the, uh...unique cardboard case, without drawing even a single panty on it), maybe these guys can get some well deserved mainstream attention.

Given the sheer number of instruments used (including a lot of vibraphone and old Eight-Track tapes being pulled back and forth, which sounds...well, pretty muck like Eight-Tracks sounded in the day), pulling off a live show would probably look like an orchestra of drunken monkeys, but, man, would it almost certainly be fun...speaking of which, guess what! Mike Dillon’s Go-Go Jungle is playing April 10 at Davey’s Uptown at 10 p.m. sharp (uh, yeah, right...), so go support modern jazz (yes, that’s right, jazz), and buy some local music from a damn fine band.

You can even forgive them for the paper CD cases. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 02/23/07)

Robin Thicke
The Evolution of Robin Thicke


Having been both praised and cursed as a sort of poor man’s version of Justin Timberlake (whom frankly he does look a lot like), Robin Thicke has an interesting pedigree, to say the least. Son of Growing Pains TV dad Alan Thicke (who, along with acting, wrote the theme songs to numerous shows, including Wheel of Fortune and Facts of Life, among others), Robin has bounced around B-list Hollywood gigs since he was a kid, doing bit walk-on parts and such. Therefore one would think his new album The Evolution of Robin Thicke would be just one more toss-off work to join the junk heap of “I’ve been a model, done crappy TV shows, what’s left…I know, I’ll make a record!”

All that being said, you do have to give this boy his props: he can sing, and with some help from Faith Evans, Lil’ Wayne and Pharrell, Thicke has made a competent if somewhat repetitive album. Sure, he tends to stick to that breathy falsetto that every boy-band everywhere uses, and how much of the sixteen tracks here he actually wrote is questionable, but this stuff is without doubt catchy, particularly on songs like “Complicated,” where his voice blends well with the orchestral background.

Unfortunately pretty much every song here is a love ballad of one sort or another until by track eleven, “Can U Believe,” you start wishing he would get a girlfriend or something, and just shut up, already.

Really, the best tracks here are when Thicke finally stops whining about women and gets a little funk in his junk. “Cocaine” is an unapologetic foot-tapper of a song, where a simple bass-beat really brings out his vocal range. With a little more range, and some songs that don’t all sound like each other, Mr. Thicke might just become fully upright.

You can listen and give him love (and he apparently really needs some…) Feb. 22 at the Beaumont Club in Missouri (They don’t allow any evolving in Kansas, you know). —Brandon Whitehead (posted 02/16/07)

Elton John
The Captain & The Kid


The first track on Elton John’s newest album The Captain & The Kid (released last September) — his last release, Peachtree Road, was back in 2004, and yes, this information was googled, thank you magical world interweb! — sums up the man’s stellar, decades-long career of goofy sunglasses and outfits that used up generations of the world’s rhinestone deposits pretty much perfectly. “Postcards From Richard Nixon” is poetic, political and so nostalgic in style it could be an unreleased Beatles single — if you really dig ‘70s music.

Elton John, born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, has always been basically a cabaret singer with a honky-tonk attitude toward the ivories, and an in-yer-face pop sensibility that switches between English-punk defiance and mawkish sentimentality faster than a bi-polar supermodel, but hey, it works for the man.

Frankly, few other openly gay musicians have gained as much American redneck popularity as Elton John (example: seeing a 350-plus trucker with Nazi tattoos lurching through a late-night bar unashamedly and very drunkenly bellowing out, “Yer my ti-iny da-ancer, ti-tiny…” — true story). Really: You got Freddy Mercury, that singer from Judas Priest…then who? Lance Bass? No, Elton made it because his music speaks to the loser-geek in all of us, as safe and familiar as comfy slippers and a sleepy dog to curl up with.

But like anything, he works best in moderation. Only the biggest fans will need to listen to all 10 tracks here, because really, one song pretty much sounds like another (which is hardly a criticism: the man knows his style, has perfected it, and done rather well in the money department, don’t ya know).

As long as the man stays away from…well, airports in Asia, basically, he can continue to be that tiny dancer holding a candle in the wind because Saturday night’s alright. Ok, so that’s the only songs that spring to mind — blame it on Wikipedia, ok? —Brandon Whitehead (posted 02/02/07)

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