CD Review: Graham Parker, "Imaginary Television"


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Coming from the 1970s UK pub-rock scene, Graham Parker had to slip away from the shadows cast by Nick Lowe, the producer of his first album Howlin Wind, and the burgeoning legend of Elvis Costello. Adept at sharp lyrics, a wicked wit and a keen sense of how to wed it to visceral rock and roll, Parker fit in comfortably with the crowd but had difficulty standing out. His ballsiest move came when he left original label Mercury for Arista, then famously wrote a song called Mercury Poisoning. Now in 2010, Costello is off seeking his muse in country, jazz and his television program. Lowes stepped into a maturity of song and sound, far removed from his debut Jesus of Cool. This leaves Parker with a golden opportunity to stand out in his signature (albeit age-tempered) style, and on Imaginary Television, he does.

Right from the opening of the first track, Weather Report, you know this is going to be more in line with expectations Parkers gruff voice surprisingly intact and the melody firmly fixed in the pop-rock milieu. All of this came as a comfort, for as much as I enjoy the directions taken by the artists I previously mentioned, I also slide into the camp that wonders why they dont do more of what they do well. Parker has always been on the fringes, filling albums with a lot of good ideas and a handful of questionable ones, but thankfully the only glaring misstep on Imaginary Television is the ill-advised riff off the Leslie Gore golden oldie Its My Party.  Its My Party (But I Wont Cry) is stuck in easy, somewhat predictable rhymes and the occasional eye-rolling verse, but its relatively brief and surrounded by stronger material.

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