Tuesday, November 22, 2011
CD of the Day, 11/22/11: David Mead-Dudes
Longtime readers of this site know that I'm a big David Mead fan, but his last release, 2009's Almost and Always, left me a little cold. It was an admirable effort as Mead's songwriting skills continued to shine, but musically it was a bit too subdued (no pun intended). So I was excited to hear that he enlisted the help of Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger (who produced his 2001 release Mine and Yours) for this record, hoping he'd return to a more upbeat - dare I say - power pop sound. And for the most part my hopes have been fulfilled, as Dudes may be Mead's most consistently engaging album since his audacious 1998 debut The Luxury of Time.
When he's at his best, Mead can seamlessly transition from a power pop gem to a brilliant ballad that sounds like a standard to what almost seems a showtune and back again. "I Can't Wait" opens the disc, and it's a fine midtempo number with a rolling melody that's reminiscent of the style found on his 2004 album Indiana. "King of the Crosswords" follows, and it's a rousing pop tune (complete with sax) about a crossword puzzle prodigy. Another standout is "Guy on Guy", which finds Mead at his lyrical best about a man who finds himself attracted to other men and features an old-time melody and a playful trombone. "Bocce Ball" is a quick 2-minute ditty with a Latin lilt that's insanely catchy (try getting its "bocce, bocce, bocce ball" chorus out of you head). The title track is another highlight; although the word "dude" begs not to be taken seriously, the song itself is a mature, melodic track and one of Mead's best.
The second half of the disc starts off in power pop mode with "Happy Birthday, Marty Ryan", probably Mead's most electric guitar-centric song in years, and also features "No One Roxx This Town No More", a R&B-inflected, ultra-catchy pop number that's of a piece with "Chatterbox" off 2006's Tangerine. And the holiday-themed "The Smile of Rachael Ray" is the kind of "instant classic"-sounding tune that seems to come second nature to him. The album closes with another winner: "Knee Jerk Reaction", a Paul Simon-like number reminiscent of "Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard". Dudes is a welcome return to form for Mead, and without a doubt one of 2011's best.
Also, it's highly worth your while (especially if you're relatively new to David Mead) to pick up this free 25-song sampler from Noisetrade, which features many of his classic tracks, some fine unreleased material, and the title track and "I Can't Wait" from Dudes.