Friday, March 19, 2010

If We Can Land a Man on the Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart

Miles Kurosky
Waterloo Records, 3/20

One of the more epic titles I've ever used for a post, but my favorite Beulah song. Besides "Emma Blowgun's Last Stand," which their long-dormant songwriter Miles Kurosky obligingly revived for the end of his afternoon set. Kurosky had enough musicians in tow to stab at "Blowgun's" extended, layering intro, though sadly no tablas, but besides that sunny marvel of a song there weren't a lot of highs to the set. I can't pass judgement on his new record, The Desert of Shallow Effects, because I haven't heard it, but it wasn't the ideal setting for a guy partial to wringing every ounce of melodic potential out of a 10- or 11-piece band.

Guitar-heavy and not equipped for a wide range of melodies from a spare percussionist and a weak keyboard player, the band didn't sell the new material very strongly. Kurosky himself, only recently out of forced retirement, was not in good voice. The health problems that have kept him out of commission continue to affect his body, if not his resolve. Given his situation it is a pleasure to see that Kurosky is still writing upbeat, cheery music with intelligence and sophistication. His guitar playing is still lean and effective, and even if his voice didn't let him nail them all his sublime sense for melody seems in good order. One of the most likable things about Beulah was the way that Kurosky always made his limited voice sound like a brilliant instrument with just the right choices of melody; but part of the effect was due to the way he had a small army reinforcing him.

Kurosky misses the support in another way. The band he's towing along now doesn't seem engaged on the same level. Miles wasn't a big performer the many times I saw Beulah in San Francisco; but Bill Swan and many of the other guys were, and they had a mob mentality going that grew exponentially the more people they could cram on stage. They were poppy and orchestrated and raucous. It would be nice to see Kurosky's health improve to the degree that he could match those heights again. For now he's trafficking in pleasant and there's a lot more competition in that field.

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