Album: ADAM BALBO – Fix (Self-released 2009)

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I like short songs. A hell of a lot can be packed into a minute or so. Set the scene, make the point, move on. Bands like the Minutemen and Guided By Voices made brevity into an art form and my favourite Residents record is the Commercial Album whose every track clocks in at precisely a minute.

Fix crams 19 tunes into half an hour. Some are little more than a couple of lines, others more expansive. Adam Balbo’s approach is stripped down, both in instrumentation (mostly just acoustic guitar) and in melody. The words are pithy and funny, though. Even the sad and serious songs are laced with witty wordplay. And the deliberately comic material is wry rather than playing for guffaws.

Several of the songs deconstruct themselves as they progress. “Obligatory Highway Analogy” and “Debating a Time Metaphor” both offer running commentaries on language as used in song in a way that’s both clever and witty. The latter, particularly, is quite brilliant in its observation. Another recurring theme is songs about friendship rather than love. “Annie”, “The Girl at My Pity Party” and “Tammy’s a Nice Girl” are sweet and empathetic. The funniest tracks are the two “Self-Loathing Songs” which are an absolute scream. They make Malcolm Middleton seem smug and self-satisfied in comparison.

Despite the fairly skeletal backing, the album doesn’t lack musical variety. Touchstones would be Woody Guthrie, early Dylan, Jad Fair and Daniel Johnstone. Not all the songs really work. Some are barely sketches. But then there’s always another one along in (quite literally) a minute. Most are really good. Ironically, after praising the brevity of the tunes, my favourite of all is probably “Sunny Day” which runs to nearly four minutes!

Like Big Kid Now which I reviewed last year, Fix is self-released. Best to go to Adam’s MySpace page to see how you can get hold of it.

Tracks
1 Obligatory Highway Analogy 1:35
2 Call a Stone a Stone 1:17
3 Convenient Dinner 1:09
4 Begging to Differ 1:59
5 Oh, My Darling, I Wish You Were Here With Me 0:52
6 Just Singing a Song 1:07
7 Self-Loathing Song (1) 0:42
8 The Girl At My Pity Party 1:06
9 Self-Loathing Song (2) 0:19
10 What the Fuck? 1:06
11 She’s My Friend 2:23
12 Annie 1:54
13 Sunny Day 3:54
14 Sharp as a Horse 1:32
15 Tammy’s a Nice Girl 0:54
16 That’s Him, That’s Your Guy 1:28
17 Debating a Time Metaphor 2:41
18 Forget About the Crease 2:35
19 The Universe Is All There Is 1:37

Website
www.myspace.com/adambalbo

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