CD: Kevin Bartlett’s “Songs For The Big Kablooey”
(Aural Gratification, 2010)
Kevin Bartlett channels his inner hubcab-diamond-star-halo with “Songs For The Big Kablooey”, his recently released five-song EP. It’s an exquisite collection of hook-filled, intelligent, glam-infused rock that echoes myriad influences, yet manages to sound absolutely fresh.
Known primarily for his commercial and soundtrack work, Bartlett has nonetheless released a steady stream of under-the-radar works over the years, ranging from a series of ambient cassette tape releases in the ’80s to “Near-Life Experience” (2003) and “Glow In The Dark” (2008), two masterful CDs of instrumental symphonic electro-rock.
But with this release, he takes a hard right turn into the Land of Mainstream Rock. And ooh-baby-ooh, he nails it.
Recorded in his newly-built Woodstock studio, Bartlett performs all the tracks himself – save some backing female vocals. And for the first time, he steps in front of the mic to sing – revealing a warm, crooning voice.
The infectiously catchy “Cool Thing,” a commentary on celebrity culture, sounds like bits of early Bowie, a bloopy-bleepy Brian Eno synth and the Bee Gee’s “Saturday Night Fever” whirled in a blender and whipped into a gem of rocker, propelled by the wild backing wails of Machan Taylor.
Things slow down a bit with “Car With No Wheels,” a heartfelt, bittersweet paean of the frustrations and alienations of infirmity and aging, and then pick right back up again with “Hold You,” a raucus and joyous diatribe against Facebook oversharing that sounds like Marc Bolan-meets-early Roxy Music… with lots of female woo-woo vocals layered on.
“Here’s Looking at You” closes out the way-too-short collection, as the spare, glittering strains slowly and surely build into a huge, gorgeous, full-blown Pink Floyd-esque anthem.
The songs aim high and easily meet, if not exceed, their mark without a hesitation or false moment. The arrangements are adventurous and inventive. The sound is crystalline. And my quibble about the collection being too short? Well, happily, Bartlett reports that he’s wrapping up the recording of some additional songs for a full-length CD release, due to be mastered next month. Do yourself the favor of finding the rest of the songs at CDBaby or iTunes. Highly recommended.