(Superelectric Megawatt Stereo Records, CD)
Former Burlingtonian Arthur Adams left the frozen confines of the Northeast for San Francisco several years ago. California's eternal summer is a perfect fit for the songwriter, whose tunes glow with pure pop warmth. Adams' latest project, Blammos, borrows from several pop-rock traditions. The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, They Might Be Giants and Camper Van Beethoven are all touchstones. To his credit, however, Adams transcends his influences to create a sound all his own.
Blammos' full-length debut, It Can't Be True, serves up 13 tantalizing pop numbers. Stylistically, the album is all over the place, ranging from delicate bossa nova to spiky garage rock. Trumpet, piano, ukulele, Wurlitzer organ and lap steel guitar join more conventional rock instruments in a tart musical cocktail. Although Adams had help with the album's construction, the tunes are undeniably his.
Over the years, Adams has emerged as a superbly confident stylist whose rich baritone is matched by a yearning, Brian Wilson-inspired falsetto. It's a treat to hear him again.
Opener "I'm Going to Hell" toys with the concept of self-identity over chiming ukulele. "Nobody calls me Art anymore / That's not all, and that's not my problem," he intones. The charmingly archaic keyboard lines on "Living With Ronald Reagan" sound a bit like vintage Cars. If they were scruffy West Coast dudes, that is. Double-time snare blasts drive the song's chorus along like steam pistons, while elegant piano colors its outro.
"Big Surprise 4" has a buoyant quality reminiscent of Ben Folds' more upbeat work. The song tells the tale of infidelity and heartache over one of the jauntiest chord progressions I've ever heard. Here, Adams flits between several musical personalities: At one moment he's an introspective balladeer; the next, a scofflaw with an axe to grind.
The album wraps up with the sprightly swing number "Farewell Q.C." Might that be the Queen City he's referring to? "Every time I fall in love it ends too soon / I'm sorry, but I really can't stay / I left you in a lurch perched in the branches of an apple tree . . . You certainly can't blame me," Adams sings, as muted trumpet conjures image of coattails and cufflinks.
Burlington lost a true talent when Adams split for the Golden State. Luckily, he swings through our neck of the woods every so often. You can catch him twice this week : with Blammos on Friday February 17, at 135 Pearl, and under his retired Lazy Songwriter moniker at Radio Bean on Sunday.