Robert Crenshaw,
Victory Songs
(Gadfly, 2000)

Robert Crenshaw's debut solo effort is a well-put-together record that shows an intuitive pop sensibility and enough wit to see him through to stardom. From the danceable "Missing You More" to the '90s pop sound of "Blue Sometimes" and Crenshaw's live recording of MC5's "Shakin' Street," this record showcases his instrumental talents (he plays everything but a couple of guitars), vocal prowess (from tender to joyful to cynical) and songwriting skill (he wrote or co-wrote 7 of 11 tracks).

Most of the songs on this record are about relationships in one way or another, which doesn't mean it's boring. It works well for Crenshaw; he steers away from conventional descriptions and opts instead for quirky, mostly upbeat observations on love and life. "Flyin' Kites in the Lightning," for instance, is an infectious tune about tempting fate and stepping off of that ledge we all have to step off of when we fall in love. And there's hand-clapping. I love hand-clapping.

Crenshaw pulls together tender love songs like "Victory Songs" and "Take it To Heart," and alternative folk-rock numbers like "It's Okay to Be Sad" (with lyrics like "the more you love, the more you lose") and "When I Get the Bomb," creating a record with numerous layers of sound and a delicious selection of hooks to choose from.

I liked this record the first time I heard it; on closer inspection, I only liked it more. Crenshaw's affinity for finely crafted pop songs is a strong asset and his versatility as a vocalist and a musician make him a well-rounded performer with great potential.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]

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