Everybody Thinks and Acts the Same, That’s Why I Live in El Cerrito

Here are two reviews of albums I received as Christmas presents. Enjoy!

She & Him, Classics – Every album by this group has included a few covers, but this one is all standards. I can’t say I recognize most of them, although it’s certainly possible I’ve heard them and forgotten. They were definitely written and recorded by big names in the industry. I do know Dusty Springfield’s “Stay Awhile” pretty well, and I seem to recall “Would You Like to Take a Walk?” being in a Porky Pig cartoon. The version of “Unchained Melody” on here is pretty close to the Righteous Brothers take that everybody knows, with a heavy emphasis on harmony. I actually recently heard a doo-wop version of the song that I liked better, but I’m contrary that way. They probably didn’t consider doing Peter Sellers’ version.

And of course “We’ll Meet Again” is the song played at the end of Dr. Strangelove, and apparently on the last Colbert Report as well. It’s pretty solid, but I feel it lacks the combination of melancholy and goofiness that Zooey Deschanel’s own songs tend to have.

Cracker, Berkeley to Bakersfield – This is a double album (not that you’d necessarily know that if you downloaded it instead of getting the CD copy), because it’s more or less two separate projects. The Berkeley one uses the original lineup of the band and has more of a raw punk/grunge kind of sound. Political commentary is common on this disc, as with the sarcastic take on class consciousness in “March of the Billionaires” and a complaint about how so many places are exactly the same in “El Cerrito.” The Bakersfield disc is more of a country/Americana record. As suggested by the title, a lot of the lyrics relate to specific parts of California, something David Lowery also did on the two most recent Camper Van Beethoven albums. For someone like me who’s never visited the state, it’s kind of educational. Two of the songs on here were previously released but are re-recorded here: “Where Have Those Days Gone” from Greenland and “San Bernadino Boy” from Johnny Hickman’s solo album.

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