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Classic Disc: Stan Ridgway’s ‘Anatomy’

Producer: Stan Ridgway

Key tracks: “Deep Blue Polka Dot,” “Susie Before Sunrise,” “Picasso’s Tear,” “Sixteen Tons”
Release date: October 1999
Label: Ultramodern/New West
Catalog#: NW6010

The Skinny: From the same twisted, creative kitchen that brought us “Mexican Radio,” Stan Ridgway dishes up another heapin’ helpin’ of quirky characters and partly-sunny LA pop-noire. Lots of tasty sounds – like the recorder, harp, flugelhorn and steel guitar – all sauteed in trippy ’90s beats with a pleasant keyboard demi glace. Tastes a little different than “barbecued iguana.”

Sounds like: Los Lobos, The Residents, Ennio Morricone, Devo, Charles Bukowski, Lowe Highnsome

Deeper thoughts: The anxious twitch of Wall of Voodoo is still there, but the musical feel is much more moody and atmospheric – and less jumpy. These songs are little vignettes about oddball characters and their misadventures on the margins of society – think ideas for short-film scripts. When Wall of Voodoo formed and recorded “Mexican Radio,” Ridgway was trying to break into the film-score business in Hollywood (he actually did go on to compose a number of scores for film & TV). This collection of songs has a similar cinematic feel. There are in fact three bits here that were written for film. If you miss Wall of Voodoo, listen to “Susie Before Sunrise” first. Dig the drunken clowns image in “Mama Had a Stove” (made me think of Dumbo).  A worthwhile addition to any collection.

The Sonics: You can take the boy out of the ’80s, but even 15-years later Stan was rocking many of the familiar keyboard sounds from his hey-decade. Plenty of low-end, but tends to have an inorganic feel… a fake rumble, if you will. Kinda sounds like a guy with his own Pro Tools rig in his living room. I got bored at times with the languid pace of the tunes and the mid-rangey sameness in some of the mixes. Sonic highlights include (but not limited to) the subtle thump of “Deep Blue Polka Dot,” and the wonderful modern-jazz space-out of “Sixteen Tons.” Sonically provocative at every turn.


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