Timothy James must be one happy guy. Like, obnoxiously happy. Perhaps it’s my jaded East Coast effrontery, but generally speaking, perky, happy-go-lucky folks drive me to drink. Although, to be fair, lots of stuff drives me to drink. Rainy days. Sunny days. Boredom. Over-stimulation. Happiness. Sadness. Jam bands. Tuesdays. But I digress. Back to the point, Mr. James must be one happy guy, and his latest recording, Magic Summer Days, is the sort of album I once would have dismissed as written by someone who’d undergone a frontal lobotomy and had access to some seriously high-test pharmaceuticals. Well, perhaps I’m softening in my old age, but I really dig the Bay Area transplant’s new disc. Just don’t tell my monthly Nick Drake-fan support/suicide-watch group.
First things first: This album is cheesy. Unabashedly cheesy. Gloriously cheesy. Triumphantly cheesy. It’s Hall and Oates cheesy. But goddamn it if it isn’t good.
James and his six-piece band Hifidelic know exactly what they’re doing. Much like Paul Verhooven knew he was making a commercially unviable cult classic with the audaciously unerotic cheese-fest Showgirls. James and Co. have crafted an homage to a bygone era when big mustaches and butterfly collars ruled the clubs and blue-eyed Mellotron soul ruled the airwaves. Burt Bacharach would be proud.
I could give you a track-by-track rundown, but it seems unnecessary. There isn’t a cut on the record that lacks groovy, psychedelic charm. It’s that sort of Dean Martin-as-Matt Helm — or, for the kiddies, Mike Meyers-as-Austin Powers — groovy that harkens to a more innocently sexy time.
There are moments of Steely Dan-esque rockin’. And there are some nifty dual guitar licks that hint at more sinister motives. But most of the disc is as sunny and hepcat-cool as the title suggests.
Warning: This disc is probably not for everyone. Those of you who prefer music that really means something, man, might want to stay away. But that’s not to say there’s no meaning in Timothy James & the Hifidelic’s work. It just means that sunny California lounge-rock is alive and well in the cold Northeast. And we should be happy about that. Obnoxiously happy.