Scott Lavene releases, Broke, on June 7th. It’s an eclectic collection of nine songs, an album for the twenty-first century in the territory of, say, Ian Dury, Frank Turner, John Otway with song-poems of day-to-day life set to a slightly quirky musical style.
I can’t find a link on YouTube or on Lavene’s website to the opening track ‘My Stereo’ which is a shame because it fulfils all the promise of Lavene’s style. It has the bouncy tune of a man slouchily swaggering his way down the street; it’s got a catchy chorus (mosh-pit-of-a-festival-catchy); and it has some cracking lyrics right from the opening verse – both the serious “These days everybody seems to say everything/but nobody’s really saying anything” and the amusing “ ‘What do you know about stereos?’ ‘ I said well not much but you see I sure know how to turn it on’ ”. The delivery makes these lines partly the story of a guy who likes his music and partly a metaphor for an ostrich-like lack of activism and lack of interest in other people. Both these themes are developed as the song continues.
The next track is ‘Apples And Pears’. I take it someone has – rightly – irritated Lavene with this simplistic management phrase and he turns it into the chorus of a dystopian tune. ‘Superclean’ is rather clever, the rhythms of an early 80’s tune without the crass electronica.
‘Modern World’ changes the mood, quiet contemplative piano to a contrasting lyric “I don’t care for the modern world/Digital invitations to a party full of arseholes/Taking photos of each others pouty faces” while setting up the scene of moving to rural imagined paradise, posting pictures to the world on instagram (“me milking a cow” … “plucking chickens in my vintage Levi shirt”) – but inviting friends to come across and bring such city delights as drugs and proper food. Among the gems are the descriptions of milk from their cow. They throw away this milk so they can buy better milk from M&S (“I’m sick of hearing cow bells”). Like the opening track, you get a sense that when Levene gets it right, there’s something really good here.
Have a listen to ‘Methylated Blue’ in the video below and it will give you a sense of Levene’s style – musical, conversational and with the wit that you can hear in the chorus “Girl, you’re really someone I can get used to/ She said ‘Boy you’re really someone I could get used to too’ ”. It’s not Romeo and Juliet – but it captures the couple beautifully. Like the best of, say, Otway or Dury, you’re simultaneously in the song sympathetic to the characters and seeing them from a third person perspective. Rather nice.
Overall, then, there are some great touches, both lyrically and musically, but I find Broke as a whole to be more mixed. The extended title track probably works much better live than it does on repeated listening, for example. I got the album to review on CD but my guess is that if I’d had the vinyl version, I’d keep playing side 1 much more than side 2.
Lavene has a number of gigs coming up between now and mid-June to launch Broke, his debut album. They’re not local to me, but otherwise I’d be keen to go and hear the best songs of what seems to be a distinctive and talented voice.
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‘Methylated Blue’ – official video: