McGarvey Delivers Quirky, Powerful Pop
By Ricky Flake

The little Indian headdress packed in with this cd matches the one on the albumís cover subject, and that was a real surprise. Even more surprising are the cocktail drums McGarvey plays. Iíve played them, and itís a different type of percussion experience, one that allows the drummer to stand up while playing. The "singer/songwriter/drummer genre is born" slogan notwithstanding, this is a nifty album of quirky, sometimes powerful pop that could wind up on my Top Ten List at yearís end.

McGarvey played drums for a number of NYC-area bands, including The Vipers and The Liquor Giants; but it is his tenure as lead singer for Valentine Smith is his real claim to fame. That band released three albums and shared stages with The Wallflowers, Lemonheads, and NRBQ among others. This album is McGarveyís first solo effort andwill be released April 22.

Here he has made a more intimate record, playing cocktail drums and guitars on all tracks, as well as enlisting the support of The Good Thieves as backing band. These folks, Thomas Novembre and Eric dePicciotto (guitars), bassist William Paris, and former Valentine Smither Kimberly Nordling- Curtin on violin and flute, occasionally supplemented by others, form quite a group. The resulting album, recorded on a combination of 4- and 8-track cassette recorders and ProTools software, is a gem.

The album brims with catchy choruses, jangling guitars, and memorable hooks, like the folksy opener, "Stay" (an excellent tune, with a tired title) with its alt-country chorus, Andy Burtonís shimmering keyboards, and Curtinís angelic harmonies, and the witty subway tale of a lovely rider who was "Standing Next To Gloria Steinem". The title track, which contains all of the above and then some, is another perfect example of Bill McGarveyís talented blend of wordplay and instrumentation. The album has many rocking moments, as well, like "5 OíClock Hero."

The aforementioned subway tune is extremely catchy, sarcastic, and funny; itís easily one of the best tunes about a feminist icon in my memory. Another great metaphor lives in "Jericho Smile", which is one of the albumís harder-hitting tunes, musically. The "hits" just keep on coming on this album. Itís altogether unfortunate that in todayís rigidly formatted radio world they probably wonít get much airplay outside of college radio.

Be advised to hang on after the great last song, "I Hear Voices", and wait for the bonus track. It is the albumís most Beatle-esque tune, "Sorrow", a country-tinged piece of melancholy driven by Curtinís violin. In a perfect world, it would be a crossover pop-country hit.

Make no mistake, this is not the down-tuned, distorted stuff of many "rock" play lists. This is jangling, hook-filled stuff, truly enjoyable.

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