KELLY PARDEKOOPER – Brand New Bag
(2006 Sonic Rendezvous Records)
Kelly Pardekooper is usually seen wearing a cowboy hat, but you can forget all your preconceptions because his new release Brand New Bag is definitely not a country record. That much is immediately obvious from the swagger of the title track, which kicks things off with all the strut of the Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You.” An infectious guitar squeal and pounding drums jump-start an addictive two minutes of rock. Though lyrically light, “Do you want me? / Do you miss me? / Would you kiss me? / Are we lovers like no others? / Or just playing under covers?” it is musically undeniable; resistance is futile.
“Crazy Girl,” “Mehaffey Bridge” and “Someone Cries” are all solid rockers in the same vein, benefiting from the strong musicianship of the main players on the record. Pardekooper plays acoustic guitar on all songs while Teddy Morgan(who also produced) plays electric and Richard Medek handles the percussion. “Bridge” in particular catches fire. Pardekooper’s smooth growl insinuates something less innocent than his invitation: “Come on Johnny, meet me halfway / Down to Mehaffey Bridge / We’ll go jumpin’ and we’ll go swimming / I’ve got lots to give I won’t deny / I want to see you in the sun.”
In its second half the record mellows without losing any bite, and acoustic and vocals dominate the last quartet of songs. “Forsaken” begs for bar-rail forgiveness even though he seems too far down to get back up. “Don’t know where it happened / Hopped the wrong rail down near Georgia / Now the train I’m on takes your name in vain,” may just be the best line on the record rivaled perhaps only by the humorous technology lament that opens “Quiet, Tonight: “I don’t like my website / ‘Cause it’s like my love life / So out of date / And the content’s not right.” Final track “Sleep Now Angel” closes the record appropriately with a soothing lullaby.
Just as notable as the music contained within is what surrounds it. Packaged as a matte finish digipack to highlight the cover artwork by Gene Flores (www.geneflores.com), it’s a truly handsome release. The El Paso-born artist has created a series of haunting etchings based on Mexican proverbs, and the one Pardekooper has chosen – its title translates to “those who love you most will make you cry”- seems especially appropriate given the heartbreakers on this record. Between the stylish cover and the exceptional material, it may be worth the hefty price tag of the import-only version. While for now it’s only available in Europe, Pardekooper will have some available at upcoming shows. It may be difficult to categorize, but Brand New Bag could be the best release by a local artist this year.