Embarrassingly enough, when asked to write a review of Bob Wiseman‘s latest solo release, “Some Wise Guy”, I had no idea who he was.  So before agreeing to something I couldn’t stick to with any degree of precision or integrity, I listened to the record.  It’s at this point that I became pretty intimidated to write this review.  Wiseman’s music is decidedly educated and avant… however…after listening again and again I realized it’s not the kind of art pop that talks down to you, rather the type that invites you into the party.  Once you get the joke too, you’re on the inside and it’s smooth sailing from there.

Ok, maybe smooth sailing is an exaggeration.  While the music becomes easier listening, it’s still dense and extremely specific from a lyrical standpoint.  For example, the opening track boasts a refrain of “I always knew that I had nothing in common with Sky Gilbert”. Maybe if you’re familiar with the creative arts scene in Canada you know this name as a prominent one in the world of writing, acting & drag performance.  However, I’m guessing, as did I, you’d have to do some wiki-research to get to the bottom of this.  Despite the obscure lyrical reference, the musical track is completely comforting, like a simple Paul McCartney chord progression & melody, dressed in an ornate George Martin arrangement of horns and vocal harmonies.

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Onward we move to the second track with the very political sounding title, Lobbyists at Parliament.  Though, unless I’m supremely missing a thick cloud of metaphor, I wouldn’t expect too much of a comment on the Canadian nor American governments.  Rather it seems to speak of the ills of today’s music industry using the names and sounds of yesterday’s music industry.  The song discusses Bo Diddley’s attempt at a hit by hiring a publicist and kissing babies, and Little Richard’s desire to follow suit all in chase of money in the form of platinum.  While the names are old and certainly the sound is old – picture “Hand Jive” by Sha Na Na with insanely interesting lyrics and artistic, slightly progressive instrumentation and structure – the message, to me is new.  Sounds more to me like a conversation about Kanye needing to get sponsored by Gerber, since 50 Cent’s tenure with Vitamin Water was so successful!  Even if I’m interpreting this song incorrectly (which would certainly not be the first time that’s happened), it’s undeniably catchy with a good dose of interesting!

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So, for those of you who haven’t googled the name Bob Wiseman yet and don’t know of his prominent Canadian band, Blue Rodeo, nor of his many Juno award wins, the title of his 3rd song is here to let you know that Wiseman is decidedly Canadian.  Neil Young at the Junos (referencing Canada’s most successful musical export and the country’s very prominent music awards ceremony) is awesome!  I admittedly am not 100% sure whether the song is praising Neil Young for his Journey through the industry or taking a few shots at him for selling out, moving to LA and making millions – or perhaps something entirely different that I’m missing.  I’m ok with the comment either way, because the song stands on it’s own; excellently recorded & performed rootsy, rocky, country-ish song with Wiseman’s signature avant pop production.

Wiseman rounds out his EP with two completely divergent songs: one up-tempo, one downtempo; one utilizing electronica elements, the other embracing his acoustic roots.  Oddly enough, I think it’s Wiseman’s extreme oppositions that give his music coherence.  He is consistently inconsistent and can pleasantly surprise his listeners with songs that are in complete opposition, yet eerily connected.  I’m planning in these coming summer months to explore the depths of the Bob Wiseman catalog which range from what I can only imagine are experimental pop solo albums to collaborations with (almost) mainstream artists along the lines of Edie Brickell.  Start with this release and go backwards or start from the top in the early 80’s and work your way forward – either way, explore the genius and probably extremely strange mind of Bob Wiseman.

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