Taylor Hollingsworth, Tragic City

Most albums have some combination of good songs, mediocre songs, and bad songs. Really good songs are rare, and really bad songs are probably more rare. Tragic City, by Taylor Hollingsworth, is something of an achievement: all of the songs on the album are either really good or really bad, with no middle ground.

The first song, “Take the Money,” starts with a really annoying riff, but then when the verse starts, it becomes a good mid-tempo Wilco-esque rocker. That pretty much sets the precedent for the rest of the record. Except for that intro, the first five songs on the record are really good almost through and through. The second song, “Little Queenie,” is a caustic Replacements-style uptempo rocker featuring the E Street Horns (hey, they’re not busy these days). The third song, “I’m a Runaway,” is a true Lou Reed homage, down to the artfully dissonant Robert Quine solo (he’s paying attention!). The fourth song, “Duct Tape Heart,” is the big single, with the female harmonies, the breakdown, and the big guitar solo — it’s slightly weaker than the others, but only slightly. The fifth song, “How Could You Be So Cold,” is a great uptempo rocker, even better for all the third-hand Dylanism.

After number five, however, is where it all starts to go wrong. The sixth song, “Gambling Barroom Blues,” is an incredibly annoying tuneless blues song that sounds like it was supposed to be some kind of Dylan parody but goes on way too long for it to remain funny. This is where Hollingsworth’s judgement starts to slip. The seventh song, “When Eye Get Around,” attempts to redeem things, but it’s not that good a song (it may be the only truly so-so song on the record). The next one, “Like a Cave,” sounds like an awful Blondie outtake so bad it wouldn’t even be re-released on a reissue. From that point on, Tragic City is all varying levels of irritance. There’s one pretty country song called “Bonnie and Clyde” later on, which has some questionable lyrics redeemed by a pretty melody, but it’s swimming in extremely deep waters. “Head-On Collision” would have been just an okay song, but the guitar part it’s loaded with brings it to the ground; same for “Heart Attack.” “In From the Storm” combines a moderately annoying melody with incredibly irritating harmonies. “One Stop Motel” swings back and forth between a decent chorus and really annoying verses. The mystery track may reach new levels of irritation — sandwiched between two J. Mascis guitar solos is the most annoying vocal part on the record. At this point, everybody should know that vocoders are banned from all records, but Hollingsworth goes ahead and uses one anyway.

It’s an impressive achievement to write any kind of good songs, but in some ways it’s more impressive that this guy wrote so many profoundly irritating ones. There’s no doubt that he’s got some kind of talent. The question the this record leaves you with is: will he choose to use his talent for good? Or for evil?

(Brash Music -- 658 11th Street NW, Atlanta, GA. 30318; http://www.brashmusic.com/; Taylor Hollingsworth -- http://www.taylorhollingsworth.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Saturday, October 1st, 2005. Filed under Reviews.

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