Amplifier, July - August 2002

Kristian Hoffman &

A collage of musical whimsy - but not without poignancy and melancholy - & pairs former Mump, Kristian Hoffman, with an assortment of friends and colleages, and orchestrates a duets collection of rock-opera proportions. Love abounds on &, from taking the second-chance plunge ("Get It Right This Time" with Anna Waronker) to die-hard hopefulness ("Tender Even Then" with Maria McKee) and playful punches ("I Could Die For Cute" with Steve McDonald). "Scarecrow" is a stand-out weeper where Rufus Wainwright creates chilling imagery and a sweeping expressino of loss and outrage over the death of Matthew Sheapard. Hoffman delivers nods to his former bands as Stew (The Negro Problem) recharges a Mumps tune, "Anyone But You," an atheists' anthem that you can snap your fingers to. El Vez (the "Mexican Elvis") adds his King-Corona croon to the Swinging Madisons' signature song, "Madison Avenue." Hoffman's wordplay is brassy and breezy; full of witchery and wry wit ("Vile buzz feels so good / if there's a hell / then I know I'm going with the whole neighborhood.") Such lyrics combined with madcap melodies - a kind of Pop Goes the Whimy, complete with flute, French horn, electric sitar and plenty of guitars - creates colors and textures that could have Baz Larhmann biting his nails and drafting video storyboards. With additional guests Russell Mael from Sparks, Abby Travis, Lydia Lunch, Ann Magnuson, Paul Reubens, Paul Zone, Van Dyke Parks, Michael Quercio and Darian Sahanaja, & is definitely !

- Brooke D. Hodess

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