CD Review of Give the Bone a Dog by Michael Carpenter
Recommended if you like
The Byrds, The Posies,
Crowded House
Label
Linear Recordings
Michael Carpenter:
Give the Bone a Dog

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

A
fter a decade of proffering his rock ‘n’ roll revelry with retro references intact, Michael Carpenter’s badly in need of wider recognition. His songs have everything needed to ensure instant accessibility – great hooks, enticing melodies, and a free-spirited exuberance that makes it clear this Aussie artist is flush with enthusiasm, fame and fortune notwithstanding. His devotion to duty is obvious; two volumes of other people’s songs, titled – what else? – Songs of Other People leave no doubt about his reverence for his roots. More than that though, each of his albums – a half dozen or so to date – find him filtering those influences throughout his own original compositions, giving his music a genuinely timeless feel that never falls out of style.

Happily, the lack of a larger following hasn’t discouraged Carpenter from pursuing his muse, and in prepping his new disc, he and his band – which he’s coyly dubbed the Cuban Heels – are taking a meticulous approach that finds them auditioning new material via a series of limited-edition EPs. The latest of the two so far, Give the Bone a Dog, follows on the heels of New Dog-Old Tricks, which was released last summer. Like that earlier effort, it boasts seven tracks and a casual, unassuming attitude seemingly unfettered by pressing deadlines or commercial concerns. The sound is that of a bunch of pals getting together for a good-natured jam and some self-effacing bantering in between their outlays. ("If it’s true that song was four minutes long, three were great," Carpenter slyly comments after the wryly titled "Bad Poetry" reaches its conclusion.)

Happily, Carpenter and crew show no cause for undue modesty. They may not be pushing any parameters, but this mix of originals and obscure covers boasts a cool competency that oftentimes suggests Keef at the helm of the Stones. Certainly, "Heaven Knows" and "I Love You Period" wouldn’t feel out of sync in a collection of Exile on Main Street outtakes. Likewise, "Different with You" and "Bleeding Money" keep the tempo taut and the giddy vibes intact. However, the real treat arrives with reverence – specifically, Carpenter’s take on the otherwise arcane Mike Nesmith song, "Joanne," a minor hit for the former Monkee that demands both a high-pitched croon and an archivist’s ability to source out the ‘70s.

Ultimately, Carpenter’s going to have some tough choices to make when the time comes to narrow down the track list for that upcoming LP. But based on what’s been previewed on these two demo discs so far, his cred can be counted on to remain intact.

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