Thursday, May 13, 2010
Flugente 2 - Flugente
SCQ Rating: 73%
Nearly fifty years after his death, Woody Guthrie is just starting to get his due. In the past decade alone, Guthrie has been inducted into multiple Halls of Fame while his work in music and poetry have earned him four Grammy nominations, three of which he won. What makes all of this buzz, which eluded him during the healthy years of his life, so ironic isn’t that his talent was overlooked at his prime, but that his biggest hit, ‘This Land Is Your Land’, remains a cultural treasure that supersedes the most memorable of radio’s mainstream hits. In few other cases can I think of a one-hit wonder as tragically underappreciated as Guthrie, so it almost seems fitting that many talented folk artists carrying the famed troubadour’s torch also reside deep beneath the public eye.
Ahead of the pack is surely Flugente, solo project for The Blam ringleader Jerry Adler. His voice, an unhinged rasp of yearning, could easily belong to a man approaching mid-life crisis but it’s Adler’s guitar-picking, punch-drunk and limber, that reveals his youth on Flugente 2. That energy enlivens a track like ‘I Swear To Tell the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God’, a humorous but thoroughly cynical tale of jury duty, and validates Adler’s storytelling voice next to Guthrie’s or Dylan’s. Memorable as that yarn is, Flugente 2’s highlights are all rooted in somber arrangements that showcase his melodic acoustics and earnest lyrics. ‘It’s Not Just the Summer That Is Ending’ seems to catch Adler aging with his autumnal imagery while ‘I Can’t Wait Anymore’ rests upon terse finger-picked chords and a piano-tapped chorus that breaks him free of all rust. Both resonate like instant classics and seem destined to make waves – be it now or in fifty years. I'd prefer now. Seriously, these songs need to be heard.
As sharp and well-groomed as most of Flugente 2 is, it’s countered by a smattering of tracks that defy the listeners’ embrace. First to disappoint is ‘Which Side Am I On?’, a longwinded ramble with no discernable lyrical aim beyond exhausting every rhyme in Flugente’s rhyme-book. At least that track sounds in keeping with Adler’s rustic introspection; ‘Apeman’, on the other hand, suffers from a smorgasbord of problems, the least of which being that it’s a Kinks cover. Gently performed and – let’s face it – pretty hokey, ‘Apeman’ ends the album on a disparaging note, diluting Adler’s wit and charisma into an out-of-context whimper. Only in extenuating circumstances like this can the idea of closing on Flugente 2’s previous track, ‘America the Beautiful’, seem like a really good idea.
That only a few bad apples have rubbed so much resentment into this listener should speak volumes of Flugente 2’s hinted genius. If Jerry Adler can hone his political sentiments in ways he’s proven capable of wielding with the emotional, Flugente might just achieve the recognition that eluded modern folk's grandfather.