March 27, 2008

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Kevin Ayers, The Unfairground
Gigantic Music, March 11
It’s been 15 years since Ayer’s coughed up an album. At 63, he’s officially a legend, having essentially started the psychedelic rock movement of the ’60s with his old crew, Soft Machine. Until this luring-out, he was living an obscure life in France, wallowing in his own eccentricities, lunching with Elton John, that kind of junk.

And so he returns, for the moment anyway, not so much to compete with but rather act as zen master to a new generation of heavy-lidded art-kids who’ve gotten their Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd by way of My Bloody Valentine. Eclectic as they are, all the songs on this LP are bleeding-edge modern — they’d fit as background for the opening credits of a 20something-centric flick wherein the camera fixes on an urban Gilbert Grape drives his beat-up hybrid around a beat-up city. “Only Heaven Knows” is the opener, a bizarrely weird, oddly strange oom-pah blues conglomeration of Louis Armstrong, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” and a mariachi swing at the closing piano line of “Layla.” Ayers’ ambitionless voice is still well-equipped for pretty much anything, and here he shines, reminiscing about the days of wings on his feet, and there’s a cuteness to it that – okay, here it is: some of his inflection walks a tightrope between Anthony Kiedis of the Chili Peppers and Kermit the Frog. The title track is where Ayers finally, accidentally exerts himself, producing what it would sound like if Cat Stevens tried to mimic Tom Waits. AEric W. Saeger