Feeling those hot town, summer-in-the-city vibes? Here's some sunny new music to fit.
TAKING THEIR LICKS: Two refugees from Too Much Joy, Tim Quirk and Jay Blumenfield, put a big smile on with their latest batch of quirky pop rock as Wonderlick, "Topless at the Arco Arena" (Rock Ridge, B+). The kick-off celebrates a free spirit cheering a concert crowd by taking off her shirt. And the tongue on wry continues with hook happy tunes and slices of social commentary - including "We Run the World," "Everybody Loves Jenny (Except Jenny)" and "The Case Against Tattoos." Hint - this set is better heard on earphones than a car stereo, so the techy production licks can sink in.
PAISLEY PARKED: Big-hat country rocker Brad Paisley sure got my July 4 off to a bang with "American Saturday Night" (Arista, A-). This firecracker's title tune waves the flag for all the things we enjoy - German cars, Canadian bacon, Dutch beer . . . you get the idea. He also makes good points with "No," a song about making do (written with country legend Bill Anderson), and the baby's coming "Anything Like."
SPLIT DECISION: When not working with R.E.M., Scott McCaughey splits his time as leader of two equally surreal yet distinctive sounding bands, both with new releases out today on Yep Roc.
The frothier Young Fresh Fellows evoke the twist 'n' frug freneticism of British Invasion rock on "I Think This Is" (B+). Yet, that slaphappy nature is sometimes undone by the perverse lyrics. Check out "Suck Machine Crater" and "YOUR Mexican Restaurant" - a hangout in the great beyond.
McCaughey's other project, The Minus 5, dresses its darker surreal strangeness (like "The Disembowlers" and better-Jesus-than-you themed "Ambulance Dancehall") in acoustic, folk country garb on "Killingsworth" (B). Helping here are R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and most of The Decemberists.
MORE THROWBACKS: The combination of Dylanese rat-a-tat lyrics and raga-rock production on Charlie Robison's song "Yellow Blues" proved another happy throwback to day-glo summer sounds of yore. It's found on this Texas talent's "Beautiful Day" album (Dualtone, A-), a sweet ice-cream cone packed with punchy originals and piercing electric guitar-driven (by Charlie Sexton) twang-rock arrangements. And dig the yummy cherry on top - Robison's haunting read of Springsteen's hot nights anthem "Racing In The Street."
The group called Chooglin' borrows its name from a Creedence Clearwater Revival lyric. But on the band's "Sweet Time" album (Big Legal Mess, B), the guys sound more like the Electric Flag, another breakout band of the late '60s that gave an especially big leg up to Buddy Miles and Mike Bloomfield. Think a mash of soul-revue horns, piercing Chicago-style electric blues guitar and gruff, West Coast distorted rock vocalizing, with just a tad of that swampadelic CCR thing thrown in, too.
Anointed "Father of British Blues," John Mayall got there with a curiously light, choppy, less-is-more singing and playing style, and with a knack for picking talented guys to join his Bluesbreakers. All that's evident anew on Blu-ray and DVD video treatments of Mayall's "70th Birthday Concert" (Eagle Vision, B), joined by band alums like Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor.
SHOW STOPPERS: The new Broadway cast of the tribal rock musical "Hair" (Ghostlight, B) takes interpretive liberties with the famed material ("Aquarius," "Let The Sun Shine In," "Air," "Good Morning Starshine"), lending a more contemporary flair. And please to note the numbers and spoken bits not captured on prior show recordings.