Archive for "My Regime"

In “My Regime,” Kelley Stoltz Reigns Supreme

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 18, 2019 by johnbuckley100

This summer, Mrs. Tulip Frenzy and I had an afternoon to kill near the Minneapolis airport, and we decamped to Paisley Park. We ponied up for the Deluxe Tour, and the experience was by turns fascinating and sad. The highlight, I have to say, was being able to play ping pong on Prince’s own table inside one of his two studios. But while I appreciated being able to see the expansive environment in which Prince could make those records he cobbled together with no other musicians, I really was more interested in seeing where New Power Generation and his other amazing backing bands laid down songs like “Cream.” I was interested in where the band played, not Prince all by his lonesome, because Sign O’ The Times and songs like “Shockadelica” notwithstanding, to me, Price was at his best when he was surrounded by others.

Artists who make records by painstakingly recording every instrument have made some pretty great albums. Paul McCartney, Skip Spence, John Fogerty have all, for whatever reason — usually because they were done working with their previous bands — gone this route. We live today in a world in which Kevin Parker, whose Tame Impala exists as a band really only on stage, is heralded for his singular vision. But no one has ever done, or is doing now, what Kelley Stoltz has accomplished, and his new album, My Regime, is at once a remarkable achievement, probably his best record since 2008’s Circular Sounds, and at the same time, just a continuation of the streak of pop gems that he’s cut in his own version of Paisley Park.

Look, I could spend the afternoon embedding links to this site’s previous Stoltz worship. Type “Kelley Stoltz” in the Tulip Frenzy search bar and you’ll see how, for a decade, we have had our mind thoroughly blown not just by the charm and quality of Kelley’s music, but by the phenomenon by which it exists.

Once more into the breach, we exclaim: Kelley Stoltz produces, all by himself, records as sophisticated — and as fun — as Ray Davies fronting Echo and the Bunnymen with David Bowie along for the tour. His music is powered along by first-rate drumming and bass-playing that somehow convey a well-meshed rhythm section that can swing. He adds layers of guitars and keyboards — even harpsichord! — with the enthusiasm and deceptive precision of Jackson Pollock adding paint to a canvas. He writes classically constructed pop songs of amazing variety — heavy emphasis on British Invasion and New Wave — with vocal harmonies that have such pleasing properties, the last time a single singer pulled this off, it was Steve Miller circa Your Saving Grace.

By my rough count, My Regime is Kelley’s 12th proper album, but this doesn’t begin to include the stuff he’s made under assumed names, or the EPs that have on them enough good music to qualify for a Tulip Frenzy Top Ten Album o’ The Year nod. The guy works. I will admit that, since 2010, some of his output has suffered from an over reliance on keyboards and synths, which of course are the crutch upon which Kevin Parker has built his empire. But there has never been an album Kelley’s released under his own name that has not stuck in my interior soundtrack like Gorilla Glue. And My Regime is one of the very best.

I appreciate Brooklyn Vegan recently stating the opener, “Sister,” sounded like a Rolling Stones song that was never made. I wouldn’t have thought of a song so quiet and sweet as a Stones song, but yes, they nailed it, the Keith Richards’ chords and the sax at the end sounds like something the Stones would have slipped onto an early ’80s LP.

The title track might be the song to check out, if you’re Kelley-curious, because the Ric Ocasek-sounding vox notwithstanding, it’s a pretty good exemplar of what you get with Stoltz: four-chord rock that chugs along with keyboard interludes, your head keeping the beat amidst rising panic — “Oh no, the song’s going to end!” I mean, you just know, a minute and a half in, that when the song ends, you’ll be sad. Until a moment later, he restarts the party with “Uh Oh.”

There are plenty of references to Kelley’s touchstone: Echo and Bunnymen, for whom he sometimes plays guitar when they go out on tour. But My Regime is also a departure from at least his work in the back half of this decade because it’s significantly more guitar-focused, which means less emphasis on keyboards floating the melody along. How a single human being could consistently produce albums with this many golden chords, barbed hooks and off-kilter rhythms is beyond my ken, but not my curiosity: I think about Kelley Stoltz and the magic of the music he produces all the time.

Look, by now I’ve either persuaded you to listen or I haven’t. And the comeback to my hundreds of sentences written in the man’s behalf is, surely, yeah, you’re a fan, we get it. The proper word might be disciple.

I’m just betting that if ever I have time to kill at SFO, and there’s a tour of Kelley Stoltz’s studio, I’ll find a place far more worthy of his genius than Paisley Park is of Prince’s. I’d be happy to live in a world where Kelley’s regime was intact and he was the master of all he surveyed. And I would love to see how he plays ping pong all by himself.

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