Ken Stringfellow: Danzig in the Moonlight
Ken Stringfellow occupies a storied place in the power-pop firmament, first of all as co-founder of the Posies, later with the reincarnation of Big Star and R.E.M., and also as a solo artist and on sundry other projects (for example with the Orange Humble Band and Oslo garage rockers the Disciplines).He’s consequently taken his latest solo album, ‘Danzig in the Moonlight’, as an opportunity to incorporate just about everything he’s done.
This sometimes means the songs make sudden turns from the lush to the sparse, as on the opener ‘Jesus was an Only Child’, which gets quite a bit crunchier as it progresses. It also means you get steel and harmonica touches for a countrified twist on ‘110 or 220V’, an ode to the varying voltages of Trans-Atlantic love, which stand in sharp contrast to the twinkling synths and el cheapo electronic drums on ‘Superwise. On ‘History Buffs’ he starts out with some melancholy piano-pop before bringing in some bells and orchestral touches. He busts out the accordion for for the hoedown friendly ‘You’re The Gold’, and uses organ and horns to put a funky edge on ‘Pray’ (which incidentally benefits from being the most cohesive-sounding tune on the album).
‘Odourless, Tasteless, Colourless’ really shows Stringfellow stretching out with some undulating vocals and odd violin melodies. There is also a guest appearance by Charity Rose Thielen of the Head & The Heart on the gentle ‘Doesn't It Remind You of Something’ (the LP version, not available for review, apparently has comedian Margaret Cho guesting on the song in her stead). Stringfellow keeps a deft handle on both tuneful fuzz and fragile heartbreak throughout the album, but does bounce around quite a bit.
The unpredictability should be enjoyed by fans of his work (solo or otherwise) but might leave those new to his catalogue a bit nonplussed (though in the days of acts like Animal Collective, perhaps that’s an assumption to far).