Under Review: Stan Ridgway – Neon Mirage

I’ve waited.  Oh, how I’ve waited.  When I saw Stan Ridgway last spring, he played a handful of new songs that he promised would make their way onto an album by mid-summer.  Mid-summer came and went, as did the rest of 2009, and most of 2010.  Desert Of Dreams, as Ridgway had titled it, was nowhere to be found.  A few months ago, Ridgway’s anomalous Twitter account began to show signs of activity on the new album front.  Though Desert Of Dreams was no more, Neon Mirage picked up most (if not all) of the pieces that project left behind.  Ridgway’s latest musical persona is much tamer than his previous ones, with lyrics that are genuinely optimistic and melodies that are focused and immediate.  The tropical “Desert Of Dreams” and the baroque “Halfway There” show a tender side of Ridgway that doesn’t always come through in his adventurous recordings.  The odder moments are plentiful as well, with “Town Called Fate” and “Scavenger Hunt” providing some of the classically dark and wordy Ridgway mannerisms.

Stan’s last solo album, Snakebite, was a meditation on blues and jazz, and Neon Mirage mostly takes the same warped approach to folk.  This is most apparent in the cover of “Lenny Bruce,” a Bob Dylan tune originally on 1981’s Shot Of Love.  The song’s simple arrangement is a stark contrast to Ridgway’s previous work with Drywall, the trio with which he released his last LP in 2006.  Neon Mirage is a satisfying listen, even if it doesn’t quite offset the prolonged wait that led up to its release.  It’s a solid effort from an artist whose fans welcome whatever he throws at them, no matter how regularly.

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~ by E. on October 1, 2010.

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