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Flamboyant mish-mashBobby Conn - King For A Day
(Thrill Jockey Records)
2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 11, 2007
Review by Tony BonyataLet it be said that heavy metal guitar riffs and god-of-thunder leads should not mix with Latin chanting, but on Bobby Conn's "Vanitas," the opening track from his latest full-length effort King For A Day, the Chicago-based musician not only makes them strangely attractive bedfellows but also bookends this epic number with a three-minute intro of '70s inner-city Latino jazz and concludes it with nearly three additional minutes of self-indulgent prog-rock noise straight out of Hawkwind's repertoire.
Despite the intriguing introduction, along with Conn's own renowned flare for cheesed-up glam rock and flashy onstage showmanship that you can almost see at times throughout the record, there's much more cheese than any flashes of brilliance on King For A Day. On the lightly seasoned bossa-nova title track, complete with Sergio Mendes-influenced harmonies, the song, unfortunately, doesn't manage to take off until it segues into a pounding pop rocker midway into the tune - which would have been more interesting had it been the bulk of the number and not just a brief portion of it. The Latin influences continue through the sleepy "Twenty-One," where Conn questions in a forced falsetto voice, "Next month I'll be twenty-two and I wonder what I'm gonna do. I wish I knew."
Thankfully he knew to mix things up enough to at least hold a level of interest with the heavy angular rhythms and mathematical guitar riffs of King Crimson on "Sinking Ships" for a surprisingly good aping of early prog rock. And while some of the prog rhythms manage to also spill over into "Anybody" Conn has turned the number into a heady pop song filled with a snatch of melody and some confident vocals.
His autobiographical blue-eyed funk number "(I'm Through With) My Ego" turns out to be one of the more interesting tracks on the record. Conn oozes sensuality somewhere between David Bowie and Iggy Pop as he croons, "I'm through with my ego, baby. I just had to let it go. And it's making me evil, baby. And it's ruining the show." Yet oddly enough, it's Conn's flamboyant over-the-top ego - which is, in fact, still running the show on this record - that's the only thing holding this mish-mash of songs together.
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