The cover of the latest record by Minneapolis alt-country sextet Shoot Lucy, wittily entitled The Soothing Sounds of Shoot Lucy, has on it an old radio sitting on top of a dresser. It made me think of Wilco’s twangy, early masterpiece A.M. Like that Wilco record The Soothing Sounds of Shoot Lucy is chock full of delicious hooks and melodies, and dappled with lyrics and themes which are at times, depending on how you view them both serious and funny at the same time.
The record opens with the song “Disproportionally Hot Girlfriend.” Musically it’s a simple and catchy country tune complete with bluesy guitar licks and a verse chorus verse vibe. The kicker here is the title and the story behind it, which is about a hot girl who is dating an ugly guy. Next on the equally twangy “I’m Blind” singer Dave Berntson tones down the hokey-ness a bit but still manages to glimpse a dark side of humor lamenting during this breakup song “Can’t even go to my bar / because we met there.” They say jokes are all about timing and delivery and this one, sad and funny at the same time, hits the bulls-eye.
Contrast this with the more sing-songy honky tonk of a song like “Devil on Your Shoulder” and you begin to see that Shoot Lucy are a band of elegant tricksters, able to manipulate situations with a musical sleight of hand. One gets lost in the soothing sounds of Jennifer Urbach’s backing vocals, falls under the spell of Chris Berg’s heart thumping bass lines and David Nahan’s crystalline solos, and is willingly trampled by the beats of dual drummers Scott Skaja and Steve Schultz.
The fact that they are all such accomplished musicians and excellent songwriters helps to make their jokier songs that much better, like the offbeat “Church” which has all the upbeat happiness of song that would be on a record for kids.
And then there is the “Never Thought About You” which is genius in the fact that Bernston has been crying wolf on so many of these songs, yet his lyrics here could either be from a man who is trying to convince himself that the dissolution of a former relationship isn’t bothering him. Shooting Lucy return to the children’s sing-song on “Won’t Go That Far” before closing the record out nicely with the slow burn bluesy alt country rocker “What About Me,” a worthy bookend to The Soothing Sounds of Shoot Lucy.
There are very few funny, good bands that I can recall and none of them, Ween or Pavement, sound anything like Shoot Lucy. The music and the humor are different. I do think however of earlier comedy acts like the Smothers Brothers and Steve Martin banjo standup. It’s difficult to pull off a record of serious music with a humorous themes but The Soothing Sounds of Shoot Lucy does just that, and it is a thing of odd beauty.
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