So anyway, Elvis Costello and Brian Wilson were strolling down Bourbon Street with Chicago’s horn section, a couple of Replacements, and a handful of modern musical hipsters, with the spirit of Leon Russell following along. When all of a sudden, Ray Davies and the Grateful Dead jumped out from a nearby alley. Now there’s a recipe for some nice, if all-over-the-place (and absolutely schizomusical) pop/rock. It’s the latest by the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, entitled Waving Kissyhead Vol. 2 & 1. Just out in February 2017.
To set the scene, Chandler Travis began as a founding member of Boston band the Incredible Casuals, who released several albums throughout the 1980s-90s. Soon after, he quickly formed his 8-piece (now 9) Philharmonic in 1998. Meanwhile he has turned up in other incarnations like the Catbirds and Chandler Travis Three-O. As for the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, that ensemble has produced five albums since 2000 (plus a four-song EP called Waving Kissyhead Vol. 1, which appears at the end of Vol. 2 & 1, hence that disjointed title).
The sound on Vol. 2 & 1 is the above amalgam and then some. The “then some” being the stuff from the EP: the T. Rex guitar and over-the-top Beefheartian (is that a word?) narrative “E,” the happy ska of “Your Wife and Mother” (posing the philosophical question, “Would you save your wife or would you save your mother?”), the Graham Parker/Tom Petty-infused “Human” (featuring chunks of that Replacements-style noise), and the soulful sing-along “Make Yourself Happy.”
But before all that transpires, there’s bright, beautiful jangle-pop (“By The Way”), bluesy, organ-driven, tongue-in-cheek-optimism (“Maybe This Is Our Year”), full-out horns-and-keyboard good times (lead-off track “You Got Me Started”), Mr. Costello with crazy sax and trumpets added (“Break The Chains” and “Going Back To Work Tomorrow”), Sunflower/Surf’s Up-era Beach Boys (“Air Running Backwards”), both those last two guys – uh, Elvis Wilson? – yes! (“Sure Gonna Miss You,” the best moment on here), neo-New-Orleans a la Mr. Russell (“When The Moon Shines”), Dixieland jam-band style, complete with Dead-ish harmonies (“Grand Rt St John”), and the wit-and-whimsy of Sparks with Ray Davies onboard (the largely instrumental “Untitled,” whose single verse actually features the word “untitled”)…plus a waltz that’s part peaceful interlude and part insane asylum (“Bobby Brown”) and a funky-beat art-rock mini-epic (what?) (“The Strongman of North America”).
Visually, if their many YouTube videos are any indication (I have never seen them live), the Chandler Travis Philharmonic are certainly a colorful crew, with their array of robes, pajamas, and hilarious headwear. And should these guys rear their hilarious heads anytime soon (there are a number of imminent dates in their native Mass. and one so far in NYC), I would suggest checking them out. In this day and age, we all need some FUN!
photos courtesy npr.org, dailygazzette.com, chandlertravis.com