Thursday, February 22, 2007

Record Review: Bobby Conn, King for a Day

Bobby Conn
King For A Day (Thrill Jockey)
Grade: A-

Bobby Conn has been a fixture on the Chicago music scene for ten years now. His notoriety in the Chi-town scene is more than likely due the fact that, in past interviews, Conn made the following claims: that he is the anti-Christ; that he chopped off a finger to remove a wedding ring; and that he is the last frontier of rock-star sexuality. Conn is also notorious for his absurd, hypersexual lyrics. For example, on “Whore” (found on 2001’s The Golden Age ), he sings from the perspective of a half-toothed prostitute giving a blowjob (!).

With this information in mind, it’s easy to say that Conn’s outlandishness has overshadowed the music he has made in the past decade. However, with his last two records, 2004’s The Homeland , and the just-released King for a Day , Conn has made strides toward maturity. He’s made the sexuality in his music implicit rather than explicit, and his lyrical concerns are now more political than sexual. The Homeland was a work of political satire, but at times was too explicit with its message, too obvious in its intent.

King for a Day , on the other hand, leaves the excess strictly in the music and shifts the emphasis from satire to allegory. The result of Conn’s focused ambitions is an album that stands up on repeated listens and is compelling from beginning to end; also, it rawks like a beast!

The best part about listening to King for a Day is hearing Conn-the-ambtious-songwriter-storyteller go head-to-head with Conn-the-entertainer. It’s a battle that goes on throughout the album, and one that makes King for a Day delightfully idiosyncratic.

You’ve got songs like the 8-minute epic opener “Vanitas,” (which starts off with a quiet, Texas-style blues riff, adds prog-rock and jazz influences, then ends with a some jamming worthy of Sabbath) standing next to “When The Money’s Gone,” a song that is essentially Motown with a harpsichord. Other of King’s highlights include the grinding bass of “(I’m Through With) My Ego,” the uptempo glam-rocker “Anybody,” and the reflective, Aimee Mann-influenced ballad “Mr. Things” (sung by violinist Monica Boubou).

With King for a Day , Conn gives the listener a strong example of what can happen when an artist channels all of their ambitions and influences into one quirky, memorable, grandiose statement. The result of Conn’s efforts is his most cohesive album yet.

Also, did I mention that this album will rock you like a hurricane?

(Jonathan Graef)

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