Law & Order
Review by Kent Manthie
The “Spot-On Sound” of Jonathan Rado is loud and clear on his latest, Law & Order, a blissfully tuneful album. The album starts out with “Seven Horses”, a tune that sets the stage for what’s to come. It’s got a steady beat, a groovy keyboard in there and far-out atmospherics. Next up is “Hand in Mine”, which really changes gears – it’s a duet with one of his female back-up singers. “Hand in Mine” has a wee bit of ‘country’ mixed in; a kind of down-home feel, while still retaining the same type of ‘echo’ production value to it. Sounds as if it could’ve been produced by Phil Spector, with that ‘wall of sound’ vibe coming through. Speaking of “country”, while taking in “Hand in Mine”, I couldn’t help but think of Johnny Cash, what with the dialed down baritone of Rado coupled with the female singer, who could’ve been a stand-in for June Carter Cash.
But then, moving on, “Dance Away Your Ego” gets back into the super-groovy swing of things: it’s an instrumental jam, dominated by an electronic piano, coupled with some bongos and some mellow guitar licks that fight right over the keyboards. It sort of reminds me of a psychedelic version of surf-rock. Not that fast, Beach Boys sound, but more of a carnival-esque atmosphere.
I could go on and analyze each song – they’re all great. But, to squeeze it down into a synopsis, let me just say that “Dance Away Your Ego”, “I Wood”, “Seven Horses” and “I Wanna Feel It Now” are very representative of Law & Order. The whole album has a rather nostalgic aura to it. Not in a derivative way, but just in the vibe that comes out of the music. It’s as if Rado belongs to an earlier era, i.e. the 1960s – ’66 or so. Not full on psychedelic acid rock and not the corny early 60s pop either, but right in the middle of the decade when music, art, poetry, etc, had had enough of the status quo of the “gray-flannel suit and Martini”, Upper West side set. This is music that sounds like the happy times of the liberating reshaping of the mid 60s, when there was a lot of potential for not only music, but all art in general and young people in particular.
Before embarking on this solo project, Rado was in the very hip, West Coast band, Foxygen, from Westlake Village, CA. From 2005 until about 2011 Foxygen released a number of DIY EPs, a lot of which aren’t even available commercially anymore. In 2011 famed producer, Richard Swift “discovered” Foxygen after getting handed a copy of their EP, Take the Kids off Broadway at a Mynabird’s show in New York. Later, the band signed on to Jagjaguwar Records. Jagjaguwar does more than just release records, because they were involved in the production of The Comedy, starring Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. It’s a modern day slacker kind of film about a group of 30-ish guys, but centered on Tim Heidecker’s character, a gadabout, who comes from wealth, has a rich father who is dying, living out his last days in a hospital bed, set up in his Upper West Side Apartment, where a nurse comes by and takes care of him. Tim’s character, however, is indifferent to this life of privilege and spends his days just being carefree, running around town, doing all kinds of oddball stuff, he lives on a boat in the harbor. To get there, he takes a tied up inflated dinghy from the dock to the boat, which is anchored in the harbor, about 30 yards out in the water. He even gets a job, washing dishes at a restaurant, just for something to do. It’s not like he needs the money.
But I’m digressing – anyway, Jagjaguwar released Foxygen’s 2nd LP, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. In 2013 Rado appeared on The Flaming Lips’ re-working of the critically acclaimed, awesome debut by Stone Roses, which was a self-titled debut, but The Flaming Lips’ re-working of it was entitled The Time Has Come to Shoot You Down…What a Sound.
The last we heard of Foxygen, France, their eccentric lead singer was with the band, doing a show at the legendary Minneapolis club, First Avenue (a club to which I’ve been numerous times; so many that I can’t even recall all the bands I’ve seen there!), where France fell off the stage there and fractured his leg. The next people saw of him, he was being taken away by the EMTs who showed up in response.
Anyway, now Rado’s out on his own, touting his new and terrific solo CD, Law & Order. It is a very hip record with a variety of sounds. For instance, the last track on the album, “Pot of Gold” has a really different sound than most of the others. It’s got a kind of pop-ballad-esque sound to it. A nice way to finish off the album. By all accounts anyone who’s looking for something that’s out of the ordinary should definitely check Law & Order out. I am so glad I was able to get this – it’s going to have a place in my music library. Put it in yours too! Why not? -KM.