Artists who followed in the stylish, world-weary tradition of British art rockers David Bowie and Bryan Ferry painted, or hair-gelled, themselves into a corner, including the leading lights of this style of music. Early ’80s New Romantics and the extended Bauhaus scene of musicians also come to mind. Once you’ve seen and done it all, rocking European-cut suits to boot, what’s left to reveal? Who buys modern-day Bowie in 100% unbleached cotton shirts and jeans? Bowie, who strikes me as a mature man who is as comfortable as he’s ever been in such garb, is forced to carry on a public persona that taps into his Thin White Duke elegance. What is the sound of an all-cotton Bowie, Ferry, or Adam Ant, for that matter?
Weird Hot, the latest band led by our very own Townsman Shawn Kilroy, may help to answer that question on their new album, Casimir. Kilroy and his mates deliver nine elegantly crafted, European-tailored art-pop songs that are unburdened by living up to some Kilroy legacy of jet-setting, high-life proportions. Without going “country” or resorting to any other deliberate stylistic device the band manages to strip down a sound rooted in UK art rock and deliver their goods in as straightforward and “grown up” a way as an artist working in a more “traditional” vein, like Nick Lowe, has manages to do. It as if the gently poppy undertones of a band like Love & Rockets figured out how to on with the times. On a song like “Mimeograph” it’s as if Spoon finally drops the self-aware pervasive smarm that annoys me and delivers the straight-up take on Bowie’s whiteboy-alien funk-pop that they have in them, complete with an appropriately ’80s-style guitar solo (a phrase I never thought I’d say). Then there’s “Jealous,” which drops the attention-grabbing, self-absorbed histrionics that marred even the best of Elegant UK Art Rock for hopelessly gimme-some-truth me.
I dig Kilroy and Weird Hot. It’s music that looks you square in the eye.