This intermittently instrumental effort by the ’60s band responsible for “Surfin’ Bird” and its biggest guitar-slinging fan might be a silly surf-rock anachronism, but that’s not all it is, not with “I’m a Trashman” adding sanitation-engineer-appreciating couplets (“Without me, baby, this city would stop. / Well, I’m more important than the mayor or the cop”) to rock ’n’ roll’s store of colloquial wisdom. And although “Real Wild Child” has been covered hotter, the same can’t be said of the Everly Brothers or George Jones songs.
Those hoping for the likes of “Ooh, We Need Jesus” or “Lord Deliver Me” from Go’s last album (when she was going by the surname Geoghegan) will be disappointed. The sole reference to her church-going ways is in the past tense. But those hoping for gently sung lyrics dissecting disintegrating romance(s), if only to know that they’re not alone, will reap rewards, especially if they’re suckers for deft baroque-pop touches. Go gets knocked down, but she gets up again. You’re never gonna keep her down.
Yes, Hitchcock’s a leftist. Most pop musicians are, even—especially?—ones whose audiences are as cult sized as his. But on this unplugged, diaphanously luminous attempt to create what he has only half-jokingly referred to as a contemporary Judy Collins album, he checks his politics at the door. What comes through is his love for unerringly cherry-picked covers and his ability to link them with originals that are almost as good. The Psychedelic Furs have never sounded so sweet, the Doors so charmingly beside the point.
Maybe it’s that the line about always having to be the lioness recalls her debut. Or maybe it’s that nearly every song—from the raucous to the primally screaming to the Princely—recalls her chronic inability not to want what she cannot have. Whatever. The movingly conflicted music that O’Connor makes out of wearing her multiply broken heart on her sleeve as proudly as she wears that Jesus tattoo on her sternum remains something special. Too bad none of the deluxe-edition extras is a Miley Cyrus cover.
“Bob Dylan’s son-in-law,” “up-and-coming singer-songwriter,” and “rock’s most observant Jew” once summarized Peter Himmelman well enough if not well. Then the music industry underwent seismic paradigmatic shifts, and Himmelman diversified. Between composing TV soundtracks and teaching corporate work forces to write songs, his recording career almost vanished. If not for a successful Kickstarter campaign, his latest album, The Boat That Carries Us (Himmasongs) might never have sailed.
That it did was good news both for Himmelman’s fans (it’s his most musically engaging in awhile) and for fans of articulate, faith-based songs of hope in general (doubt-bedeviled though that hope is). Then Hamas attacked Israel, Israel retaliated, and Himmelman wrote, recorded, and posted a video for a song called “Maximum Restraint,” an unabashedly politically incorrect defense of Israel. It sucked the air out of The Boat That Carries Us’ room. Here’s hoping that, once (if?) the dust settles, the album gets its air back. —A.O.