Arts & Entertainment
Hear Me Out
Reg: Not so regular
Published Thursday, 05-Mar-2009 in issue 1106
Gentleman Reg, ‘Jet Black’
This queer Canadian’s fourth LP isn’t as dark as a title like Jet Black would lead one to expect. The charmer, which is only a tad ho-hummy at the tail end, is Gentleman Reg’s sashay into the States. And it’s good stuff. After the surfer-dude smoothness of “Coastline,” flecked with sweet electric guitar riffs, and “To Some It Comes Easy,” a lyrically deft, mellow rocker, he gives his brand of indie rock on his latest a glam sheen. “You Can’t Get It Back,” with a caffeinated chorus, sticks like gum to the ground, while bright and synthy “We’re in a Thunderstorm” could cause a power surge. You can practically see all the disco lights sweeping across a sweaty plethora of dancing bods.
Reg (real name: Reg Vermue), who had a spot in John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, sings like a supermodel looks. His voice is Kate Moss thin, breathy to the point of sometimes being swallowed by the arrangements, but it’s irrefutably pretty – and best on “Rewind.” One for the “Our Relationship Is Screwed (But I Still Sorta Love You)” iPod playlist, it aches with a looped goodbye-relationship refrain – “There’s no point in going back when a masterpiece is crumbling” – emphasized with some honey-sweet harmonies. Come the final third, though, “Jet Black,” produced by Dave Draves (Kathleen Edwards), loses its ear-wormy oomph, finishing duller than it started with airy arrangements that plod rather than pop.
Grade: B-
Melinda Doolittle, ‘Coming Back to You’
Melinda Doolittle’s major annoyance – her “aw-shucks” face after getting kudos from the “American Idol” judges during season six – overshadowed her big voice. But rejoice! No more excruciating, overly modest look – or any modesty, really. Her first album, a vocal showcase that escapes the drab “Idol” debut fate by relying on lesser-known covers, finds the smoky-voiced soul singer channeling Aretha and, at times, stepping in Tina Turner’s black spike heels. Shy? Not anymore. “Dust My Broom” is a man-hating kiss-off, given the Tina touch with Doolittle’s fiery delivery. But elsewhere on “Coming Back to You,” she’s tackling yesteryear funk-soul with a modern facelift. “Fundamental Things,” a Bonnie Raitt recording, sets the stage. And on it, producer Michael Mangini (Joss Stone) meshes an old-school Amy Winehouse sound with contemporary R&B – it’s sexier than anyone’ll remember the Tennessean being on “Idol.” With ’70s mainstay “Declaration of Love” (yes, the one Celine Dion covered), the Motown vibe is infectiously fun and justifies comparisons to Diana Ross. And even if she occasionally dates herself – whimsical, string-lined “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” could be the closing song to a black-and-white film – we can’t help but do the time warp with her. That voice is a vacuum, and getting sucked up is hard to resist.
Grade: B+
Duncan Sheik, ‘Whisper House’
Once a one-hit wonder (remember “Barely Breathing”?), Duncan Sheik made his name known in the gay community for his later theatrical leanings. Album number four, his first since the award-winning “Spring Awakening” musical production and 2006’s LP “White Limousine,” is rooted in lite pop and mild folk, with faint traces of theatrical flourishes. Laying the groundwork for a stage show later this year, about a boy living with his aunt in a haunted lighthouse, the 10-song story is an earnest outing, and several tracks zing with ear-pleasing harmonies from Holly Brook. But it’s the whimsical vaudeville-ish “The Tale of Solomon Snell” that should’ve been the foundation for the album, which, with a sleepy execution, might fare better when paired with visual elements. By itself, though, “Whisper House,” sounds sometimes as dead as the ghosts in it.
Grade: C+
Also Out
Rihanna, ‘The Remixes’
When you’ve got it, flaunt it, they say. Which is exactly what this Caribbean Grammy no-show and her really wise (or really poor) record label, are doing. Milking her 2007 album, Good Girl Gone Bad, for the third time – a deluxe Reloaded edition followed the original release – the 12-track disc is (insert frown here) all radio edits. They’re mostly tightly produced, including two mixes of “Umbrella” (The Lindbergh Palace Radio Edit fitted with gay-sound galore) and a sped-up “Push Up on Me.”
Alison Lewis, ‘A Mile Down Division’
The alt-rock virtue of Lucinda Williams meets country singer Miranda Lambert’s rustic twang on this Colorado musician’s sophomore disc. Her honky-tonk-lite voice sells it, but there’s a lot to drool over music-wise, like pulsating electric guitar riffs on “Hummingbird” and the cascading-like quality on “Earthquake.” And if there’s anything that shakes you like the 6.6 quake she references, it’s her words – strong enough to knock you down.
Gene Dante, ‘The Romantic Lead’
Got an ear for the out-there? Meshing rock and theater like they were born to be together, Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s stage actor’s music is like learning to drink beer. For those who acquire the taste for some theatrical crooning over glam-rock arrangements – or care to know a little more about Dante (or his really cool penis, which he boasts about on in-your-face “C*** Star”), getting drunk off this could be a cinch.
Chris Azzopardi is a music whore who doesn’t charge by the hour.

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