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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Something missing from the BoDeans' 'Mr Sad Clown'

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Casual fans know the BoDeans for one big song, 1993's "Closer to Free," which gained notoriety as the "Party of Five" theme song.

More devoted fans will tell you there's quite a bit more. The band had a string of good albums in the '80s and '90s, beginning with their critically acclaimed debut "Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams."

Unfortunately, the depth of feeling that made those earlier albums so resonant is hard to find on "Mr. Sad Clown," released Tuesday. Bandmates Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas have produced a solid, but not memorable album.

The record has its moments, but there aren't a bunch.

"If...", while perhaps a bit melodramatic, conveys the raw emotion of being deeply in love and feeling it might be the only thing going right in life. A line like "If you ever went away I'd lose the only reason that I'm not insane," can be easily related to at times.

"Feel 'Lil Love" lies at the other end of the spectrum. Not only is it much louder, faster and happier, it also conveys emotions much more transient. The liner notes describe it as "excitement and lust put to melody." Indeed.

One question the album leaves this writer with is what kind of live show the band puts on. Llanas has described himself as "not a studio rat," but says the band's best work is done onstage.

This feels like a set of songs better suited for the stage.

My spin: C

The frustrating thing about "Mr. Sad Clown" is it's hard to form an opinion. It's not bad, but it's not that good.

Neumann and Llanas remain good singers and instrumentalists after almost three decades together. Their songwriting also remains solid. There's something missing on these performances.

"If..." and "Feel 'Lil Love" are the two best tracks here. "Stay" and "Headed for the End of the World" are also solid.

Otherwise, though, the album is a bit two-dimensional.

The BoDeans, "Mr. Sad Clown"

Released: April 6 on 429 Records

The BoDeans are: Sam Llanas-vocals, acoustic guitar; Kurt Neumann-vocals, drums, bass, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitar, percussion

Additional players: Michael Ramos-trumpets, Hammond B3 organ; Joseph Serrato-saxophone

Producer: Kurt Neumann

Learn more at: www.bodeans.com or www.429records.com

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