One Night Bland
For Ted McCloskey, the more things change, the more they stay the same. His fifth album, ONE NIGHT BLAND: PREFIXES AND REMIXES, is a challenging listen. On it, he explores characters lost and not-likely-found anytime soon; if at all. The songs develop in a series of rapid-fire, pulsating, exposed nerve-endings that hit with focused power, using previously unearthed, glam-influenced, loud, electric guitars, and a stony glare aimed squarely at the target; day-to-day malaise. The fake, unhappy, cartoon figures on the cover indicate as much. In McCloskey's words: 'It is more a collection of short stories than one overall novel. That is pretty much the idea. It is 13 different people living one night, which is their every night. It is how these characters spend their tilt a whirl lives...whether it is drinking every night, dancing with strangers, phone liaisons, trying to be the center of attention, or falling in love every two minutes.' It is also rock n' roll. Nasty, loud, sinewy rock n' roll that makes your ears burn and your legs jittery. Rock n' roll, the likes of which, is hardly made anymore. Similarly, since his very first album, ONE MAN MISERY PARADE (presented here in an altered state as REMIXES), he has continued to delve deeply into the psyche of desperately-flawed people; which includes practically all of us, especially himself. So you have two albums for the price of one; each linked by the same defining eye-for-detail, and the same consistent pop craftsmanship that we've come to expect. Since ONE MAN MISERY PARADE is currently out-of-print, and not economically feasible to re-release on a small independent label, it makes a lot of sense to combine the two albums into one cohesive whole. After the 'anti political' TECHNICOLOR THIEVES, McCloskey shifted the focus away from the hopeless state of politics of throwing up one's hands and burying one's passion, to a concept of taking a deeper look at what is around him everyday. ONE NIGHT BLAND is all about the coping mechanisms that people use to deal with everyday life: no matter how weird or kinky it may seem. The record instantly punches you squarely in the face with the opening amphetamine-fueled, hand-clappy, 'Stooge-pop' like broadside, Hopelessly Helpless and barely let's up for the next hour. 'you're helpless, helpless you're cut and exposed you're dancing with some stranger and holding him so close yeah you're helpless, helpless and misdiagnosed you're all inside your head and won't give up the ghost you're so hopelessly helpless' McCloskey conjures up his most spidery, slithering, Mick Ronson style guitar assault yet. Yeah, it is a derivation of all the things that he has always done as a guitarist, but it takes all the bat-shit crazy Chuck Berry licks to a the same place that Ronson and many other great glam guitarists did. 'endless hours where you grab and pick at the scabs in a once haunted room the floor's covered with souvenirs From all years of re-opened wounds' Some Other Planet relieves the tension, somewhat, with it's ringing guitars and beautiful harmonies. Look beneath the pretty melody and you will find another tale of lost hope. This is not easy listening and the slowly building tension is only beginning. Six More Rounds follows and it is the Rolling Stones' 'Star Star' turned sideways, inside-out, and flipped up-side down with a hint of good old-fashioned Western Swing thrown in, seemingly, just for head-f***'s sake "This glass is half-empty and half-broken-in You're a chamber half-full roulette romantic Take your best aim; it's your stupid game Give me six more rounds of indifference' The lyrics are spit out so quickly that it almost seems as if they are coming to McCloskey in some kind of catastrophic fever dream. He has done this stuff before, but one can't help but feel as if the urgency quotient is amped-up ten-fold. Swimming Again, with it's pill-popping self-medicating, cure-all for guaranteed personality, comes firing out of the gate with syncopated hand-claps, Johnny Thunders' buzz guitar, and contains the funniest line McCloskey has ever written: 'Almost myself, whatever that means' In the Zoloft age, this is a welcome broadside...equal parts funny and a tragically sad indictment of modern psychological medicine. Tilt-a Whirl is all bleeps, syncopation and random circular motion that ranks as one of the most beautiful songs McCloskey has ever recorded and is essentially a summation of the entire album; day-to-day life as a circus ride. Elsewhere, the barrage really never let's up. On Going Going Gone, he let's lose with a stinging guitar solo that exemplifies all the skill he has, but it is never showy or superfluous. Seven Minutes Closer is a phone-sex, fuzz-f***-fest that reeks of tension barely contained and dirty climax. All Of The Above is pure blues-bile and harkens back to the sonic experimentation of SIXTY CYCLE HUM, perhaps McCloskey's most underrated album. It is essentially an indictment of the neediness inherent in the me-first generation. 'You can sing all you need is love, but all you need is all the above' The cleverly titled I'm Gonna Learn You How (the title is pure Paul Westerberg) and takes another page from the Stones and the Chuck Berry they aped so successfully. The album concludes with The Ceiling Staring Back's codeine-laced slide blues voodoo and So Much Nothing To Do, a tasty slice of Sun era rock n' roll complete with with falsetto vocal and killer jazzy guitar licks. It is a damned fine album by anyone's standards. The addition of the re-worked version of ONE MAN MISERY PARADE is a gift to all those who missed/loved it the first time. The 4:00 AM recording vibe is there. If anything, these versions add a certain amount of melodic Polish to the original version that only increases the songs' impact. If you loved the first version; you will not be disappointed by the remixed version. If anything, it should make you appreciate the great songs even more. ONE NIGHT BLAND: PREFIXES AND REMIXES is an album worth hearing. Many wonder why Ted McCloskey isn't some kind of national recording artist whose name is on the tongues of more people. Truth-be-told, he would probably feel neutered and obligated to provide something he doesn't want to provide. He would much rather vent his spleen, create manic rock n' roll, and not have to answer those kinds of questions. For that, we should be grateful.