Roy Trakin Declares Kristian Hoffman a Minor Pop Deity

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 5, 2010

3. Kristian Hoffman, Fop (Kayo Stereophonic): This veteran pop auteur’s musical resume goes back to the Mumps, the CBGB/Max’s Kansas City-era band he formed with An American Family’s late bon vivant Lance Loud, and his list of collaborations over the years includes such mythic musical oddballs as Rufus Wainwright, Klaus Nomi, Paul Reubens, Van Dyke Parks, Ann Magnuson, Lydia Lunch and James Chance. An unabashed lover of over-the-top, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink baroque a la Queen, Roxy Music and other examples of poperatic fey rock, Hoffman’s latest boasts 17 songs in a disc-filling 74 minutes, housed in a superbly art-directed package with a lavishly annotated lyrics booklet, bankrolled by noted patron of the arts (and famous Sparks booster), ex-Rhino and current Apple editorial/marketing maven Gary Stewart. Hoffman describes the new album as an amalgam of Ziggy Stardust and Days of Future Passed, and it more than lives up to those elevated art-rock standards with a time-tripping dip into musical styles old and older. It opens with the aptly named seven-minute-plus Bowiesque opus, “Something New Is Born,” Kristian’s typically articulate, self-proclaimed “love letter to the apocalypse—candy-colored lifestyle suggestions for the end of the world. I mean who else would rhyme “What denouement is more utterly utter” with “Than God in his final involuntary shudder”? There are flashes of  Byrdsy power pop folk (“I Can’t Go There With You”),  a string-laden ballad (“Cassandra”), a doomy, vaudevillian, vampirish danse macabre (“Evil”), a vintage Gilbert & Sullivan-style ragtime show tune (“Imaginary Friend”), a bluesy, Ray Davies-like rocker about existential fear (“Mediocre Dream”), a funky falsetto disco duet with America’s Got Talent runner-up (and collaborator) Prince Poppycock (“Soothe Me”), a hyper-romantic tribute to the home of the British Invasion (“Blackpool Lights”), a ‘20s swing tune (“Little Brother”), a gleefully profane raunch-rocker (“Hey Little Jesus Get Out of That Hole”), a Rocky Horror Picture Show-styled libretto (“Alignment”) and a McCartney-esque “When I’m 64” look back at the “patchouli summer of love,” with a fascist lover who promises to be your “Adolph of amour/You’ll be happy and sore” (“Ready Or Not”). In spite of (or maybe because of) the full-blown baroque theatricality, Hoffman never loses touch of the lush melodies and his love of pop informs the sprightly “My Body It,” with its punchy horns and roller rink organ massaging the hook. The curtain comes down after the shimmering, winsome “Mocking Bird” and the epic, Kinks-y “Strange Seed,” which ends with Hoffman promising us a future poptopia… in the afterlife. “We’re going to help you.. And we’ll be happy again.” Call it Fop Pop, an unabashed tribute to those exquisite Beach Boys/Beatles harmonies which fuses a pre- and post-punk sensibility by effortlessly updating the pop music tradition with love, affection and a whole lot of (tongue-in-) cheeky smarts. To call Kristian Hoffman camp is to deny his utter pop sincerity.

5. Timur Bekbosunov at M Bar, Hollywood: With his dark, goth manner, lopsided haircut and sickly pallor, this incredible operatic, Bryan Ferry-ish tenor from Kazakhstan, the home of Borat, could well be cast in an upcoming Twilight sequel or episode of True Blood. Sporting a croon with an amazing minimum of four if not more octaves, Timur and his “pop” band, the Dime Museum, which is really a five-piece chamber orchestra including viola, cello, accordion, acoustic guitar and stand-up bass, were the opening act at the release party for Kristian Hoffman’s Fop album. Timur paid tribute to the evening’s man of honor, covering several of his songs, including “That’s Something New” and a show-stopping, standing ovation-inducing, pitch-defying take on the rapturous “Total Eclipse” (“Just a slip of your lips/And you’re done”), memorably performed by the late Klaus Nomi. Throw in a gloriously campy take on Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” (“I want to fuck you like an animal” never sounded so musical) and a touching cover of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” as he clutches a fake ermine stole, and we might well imagine ourselves back at some decadent Weimar Republic cabaret circa 1931, a fitting metaphor for that Election Day’s conservative-led political crystalnacht. Keep an eye on this guy, who is currently preparing a debut album inspired by Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, with songs composed by Hoffman, Sondra Lerche, Amanda Palmer and Nick Urata, among others. He could well be a fusion of Tiny Tim and Enrique Caruso for the new depression. For more information, see www.theoperaoftimur.com.