We don’t usually cover legacy acts or artists who make the mainstream charts here. They get a lot of press already and they’ve usually got a strong fan base. But I do have a few faves I can’t help but write about because I do love them so. Obviously I’m not going to move the needle on their chart placements but hey, I can say my piece. Today we single out a few songs from stars that continue to shine for me.
Elvis Costello’s Rusty project is such an interesting endeavor for a host of reasons. Backstory: Elvis decides to reunite with a guy he played in a duo with before he made it big on his own. I mean, what happens to all those bandmates who came before an artist gets famous? Mostly left behind, I suspect. So for Elvis to reunite with his former partner Allan Mayes 50 years after they parted is pretty special. And the results are impressive too. The Resurrection of Rust kicks off with a sound not unlike the pub rock of Brinsley Schwarz and EC’s first solo record. And why wouldn’t it? The song “Surrender the Rhythm” is a Nick Lowe Brinsley-era song. Nick’s “Don’t Lose Your Grip on Love” sounds great too. But the early EC original “Warm House (And an Hour of Joy)” is probably my fave here. Another striking blast from the past is Julian Lennon’s most recent longplayer Jude. It’s been a lifelong challenge for this guy to move out of his famous father’s shadow, given the considerable baggage he’s got. But this album might just be his best yet, playing to his soft rock strengths while still sounding very contemporary. The songs are strong, particularly the acoustic “Not One Night” and Oasis-y “Lucky Ones.” The standout track though is “Round and Round Again” with its spy-worthy trebly lead guitar and an overall atmosphere that reminds me of Black’s Wonderful Life record.
Drag queen Trixie Mattel is a one-woman entertainment dispensary: comedy TV star, fashion and make-up entrepreneur, and singer-songwriter extraordinaire. In a way her recent Blonde and Pink Albums is just the culmination of a trajectory she’s been signalling for a while. Starting off in the country and folk genres Mattel has hinted throughout her various releases that she’s a poppy rock and roll girl. The 14 songs here are all-in power pop, mostly Mattel originals but with covers of the Go Go’s and Cheap Trick thrown in too. The results are maximum fun. There’s a touch of Aimee Mann on “White Rabbit,” a bit of Fountains of Wayne in “Girl of Your Dreams,” and a return to Trixie’s country roots on “This Town.” But I think my fave here is the candy-coated pop delight “Goner.” Another surprise in 2022 was the return of an old favourite band, Tears for Fears. It’s hard to capture how omnipresent the band were back in their heyday of The Hurting and Songs from the Big Chair. But last year’s comeback album The Tipping Point easily outstripped the popularity of their previous comeback album from 18 years earlier, making the top ten in countries around the world. I loved the album’s second single, the acoustic guitar-led ballad “No Small Thing.”
Pixies are another comeback group whose quality of material didn’t suffer after two decade break. With the release of 2014’s Indie City it was like they’d never paused. Personally I thought 2016’s Head Carrier had some of their best material with tracks like “Tenement Song.” But their recent 2022 album Doggerel sounds as fresh as anything they’ve produced, particularly “Haunted House” and the should-be hit single “Thunder and Lightning.” What’s left to say about legendary American family band The Cowsills? They were inspiration for television’s The Partridge Family, originators of the Americana sound, and unlike many family bands of the period most members just oozed talent, both within and outside the group, most notably Bill, John, Bob and Susan Cowsill. Their first album came out in 1967 – their tenth arrived just last year. Rhythm of the World features Bob, Paul and Susan Cowsills sounding pretty sharp. I’m partial to the hooky “Every Little Secret” with its captivating classic-Cowsills overlapping vocal arrangement.
Not all stars fade into the night sky. Some come back brighter than ever.
Photo courtesy James Vaughn.