As if to disarm that preconception, the album opens with a taut, harmonically unsettled arrangement of On Broadway, the striver’s anthem still synonymous with its greatest steward, George Benson. Prefaced by an atmospheric montage of rejections, the track soon yields to Elling’s assured delivery, a series of staccato bursts and swooning gusts meant to underscore his resolve.
He sounds unstoppable, as does his current band, featuring the pianist-arranger Laurence Hobgood, the guitarist John McLean, the bassist Clark Sommers and the drummer Kendrick Scott. Here and on a few other tunes, like I’m Satisfied, originally recorded by Lou Rawls, and Tutti for Cootie, a Duke Ellington chestnut, singer and background achieve a swinging symbiosis with the material. Elsewhere it gets a little hit-or-miss.
Perhaps a listener of stalwart Bensonian allegiance — the kind of person who has given some thought to a Smooth Jazz Cruise — might find something to like about this version of Sam Cooke’s You Send Me, which feels suffused with candlelight and bath oils. I doubt there’s anyone who could find genuine wit in Elling’s version of the Coasters’ Shoppin’ for Clothes, with a chummy assist from Christian McBride — or much satirical edge in his cover of the Monkees’ Pleasant Valley Sunday, despite its zombie references and jagged 7/8 meter.
But what works best here works gorgeously: So Far Away, and a stealthily creeping I Only Have Eyes for You, and especially the stark reading of Paul Simon’s American Tune that now stands as one of Elling’s purest and most restrained performances. He puts a special ache into the line “So far away from home,” which concludes the first verse: it’s an intriguing echo, given that Elling left his native Chicago for New York City four years ago. To quote another lyric handled gingerly on this album: doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
— NATE CHINEN, NY Times News Service
The dead-end kids are having their day. Righteous fury radiates outward on 119, the latest from the anarcho-hardcore invigorators in Trash Talk, who are vigorous and humane in equal measure.
But considering how committed to form and mode this band has been — agro bursts of guitar and drum, vocal growls delivered with abandon — there is a whiff of concession on this album. 119 is 22 minutes long, almost an eternity by the standards of a group that once put out nine-second songs. That’s because 119 stops to breathe in a way that this group’s earlier releases haven’t.
Eyes & Nines (Trash Talk Collective), its 2010 breakthrough, was tight and claustrophobic and nasty and exhausting, like collapsing on the pavement after a desperate sprint.
119 stops speeding to have some conversation. Lee Spielman, the charismatic and intense frontman, is far more legible a singer here than he’s ever been. That lucidity is in service of some of his most pointed lyrics. “Are you bored of your boredom?” he asks at the top of Eat the Cycle, the album’s first song, continuing, “Fingers feeling worked to the bone? Afraid of the life that you’ve made? You’re not alone.”
This is Trash Talk’s first release on Odd Future Records, the label founded by the divisive Los Angeles hip-hop crew. (The Odd Future rappers Tyler, the Creator and Hodgy Beats appear on Blossom & Burn.)
That label gets distributed through the Sony system, which means that 119 is likely the only major label album this year to address homelessness (Exile on Broadway) or to include a vintage Trash Talk-style song like Uncivil Disobedience, which is 76 seconds long and opens with the command, “Occupy all streets!”