Alejandro Escovedo and the Shrinking Gap Between Classic Rock and Punk

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Alejandro Escovedo
  • Alejandro Escovedo
At first blush it seems a little weird that Street Songs of Love (Fantasy), the latest album by Austin scene kingpin Alejandro Escovedo, includes cameo appearances by former Mott the Hoople front man Ian Hunter, whose voice has not aged well, and Bruce Springsteen, who—dare I blaspheme?—never had much of a voice to begin with. In most ways these guys are paragons of classic rock, but Escovedo was one of the earliest U.S. punk rockers, playing in a first-wave combo called the Nuns that was among the openers at the Sex Pistols' final show in San Francisco. As his long career has unfolded, though (with Rank and File, the True Believers, and as a solo act), he's closed the distance between classic rock and punk. Of course, the kind of punk Escovedo grew up with got its juice from Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC5—we're not talking about hardcore here—so the distance wasn't as great as it might have been. Still, his new album straddles the divide as easily as you might step over a puddle.

The album was produced by frequent Escovedo collaborator Tony Visconti (who's also worked for the likes of David Bowie and T. Rex), and the arrangements are agreeably direct and sparse. Sometimes Escovedo's scrappy band kicks up some real fury—Escovedo and David Pulkingham briefly spar with stabbing riffs on "Silver Cloud," for instance—but more common is the tone of songs like "This Bed Is Getting Crowded," which split the difference between Iggy & the Stooges and the Rolling Stones. The songs aren't short, but there's no fat in the playing—unless you count the mere existence of the synth-bass line on "Street Songs," which sounds horribly out of place. (We'll also leave aside how terrible the album art is, since where Escovedo is concerned there's nothing surprising about that.) What might be most impressive is that Escovedo, who'll be 60 in January, has never made a flat-out bad record. He doesn't radically alter his sound from album to album, though, and he shies away from flash and bombast—things that seem to make it easier to take him for granted.

He plays Lincoln Hall on Tuesday night.

photo: Martina Chavez

Today's playlist:

Jarvis Cocker, Further Complications (Rough Trade)
Harley Gaber, Indra's Net (Edition RZ)
Hüsnü Senlendirici ve Trio Chios, Ege'nin Iki Yam (Doublemoon)
Gerry Hemingway, Songs (Between the Lines)
Christof Kurzmann and Burkhard Stangl, Neuschnee (Erstpop)

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