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June 2023
Vol. 22, No. 9

CD Reviews

SPUD DAVENPORT: Songs for the Cynical

by Bart MendozaApril 2023

Musicians as superheroes? Spud Davenport’s latest album, Songs for the Cynical, features comic book-styled graphics, complete with photos of him in costume. While his credentials as a crime fighter may be in question, his songwriting skills—and especially his way with a pop hook—are undeniable.

The 14-song collection is largely a two-person affair, with Davenport handling drums, percussion, piano, keyboards, acoustic guitars, and kazoos. Meanwhile, co-producer Andy Machin (along with Charlie Recksieck) provides almost all electric guitar and bass. Guests include bassist Paul Denton, best known for his work with the Sleepwalkers, on the song “If I Had Time.”

Songs for the Cynical more than anything highlights the strength of Davenport’s songwriting. It’s a cohesive set, but the songs are strong enough to also sound like 14 singles. Davenport takes the vocal lead on all except for the album’s closing track, with the key to the album’s listenability being its stylistic variety. He is an impressive tunesmith, through his use of counter melodies and harmonies, to the length of the tunes (most in the three-minute-plus range) and varied rhythms, you can tell Davenport put a lot of work into this album and it yields plenty of rewards.

Right off the bat, I have to mention indie rocker “Home for the Headaches,” with its instant sing-a-long chorus. Anyone who gripes about each year’s round of Christmas songs (in particular), will love this one, which casts a less than flattering light our annual gatherings.

Powerpop fans will also find plenty to love here, starting with the album’s opener, “Come Inside!,” which sounds like an upbeat lost circa 1979 gem. At 1:15 it doesn’t overstay its welcome, acting as the album’s theme song. Speaking of brief songs, there’s also a snippet of an instrumental tune, “Only One Parade (Reprise),” a bluesy harmonica led, 42-second groove. It’s really good and certainly leaves a listener wanting more. Meanwhile, although the title of rocker “Enjoy Every Sandwich,” doesn’t promise much, the song’s sentiment and Davenport’s hooks rise to the challenge. Then there’s twangy guitared, rock-a-billy-ish stomper “If I Had the Time,” complete with Jordanaires-styled backing vocals and a quote from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Also fun is the quirky, jangly “Don’t Flip Your Lid” (think TMBG), highlighted by Eric Murray’s trombone solo. The lone cover is a version of Van Halen’s 1984 hit, “Hot for Teacher,” completely recast as a haunting piano ballad. It really does work and bears repeated listens, but it’s not as good as Davenport’s originals.

Songs for the Cynical closes strong with an excellent piano pop ballad, “Let’s Lead Together,” sung by Mary Grasso. Her plaintive vocals give the song an emotional pull that matches the song’s uplifting lyrics. The album’s song most likely to be covered. Nice string arrangement as well.

Well recorded, well written, well played, Songs for the Cynical’s music covers a lot of ground, but it’s a journey pop/rock music fans will certainly enjoy.

Songs for the Cynical CD Release takes place on Saturday, April 8 at Goodbar, 1872 Rosecrans, 6pm.

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