The Big Take-Over, Issue No. 50

As a prominent L.A. music director for folks such as Rufus Wainwright and Bongwater's Ann Magnuson, and leader of such old New York bands as The Mumps and Swinging Madisons going back to 1974, Hoffman is apparently friendly with every unusual pop musician here and in Southern California. On his third solo LP, he makes a fresh pop and power-pop record dueting with a whopping 17 of them - everyone from such quirky folks as Magnuson, Wainwright, and Van Dyke Parks to old NY underground buddies Lydia Lunch and The Fast's Paul Zone, to Three O'Clock/Jupiter Affect's Michael Quercio, Lone Justice's Maria McKee and Redd Kross's Stephen McDonald (and even, yes it's true, Pee Wee Herman). But for all this heavyweight talent, it's Hoffman's songs that take center stage, as the most striking entry, the off-kilter, strangely touching, seven-minute piano-ballad "Scarecrow" (how good Wainwright's voice sounds here, mixed a little bit more down into the instruments, and the two voices combined sound dynamite) and the more new wave-pop sunny delights of "Anybody But You" (with The Negro Problem's Stew) and "Just In Time" (with Quercio) confirm. Hoffman perhaps errs by starting the CD with two negligible songs (and less-successful tandems with Russell Mael of Sparks and Anna Waronker of That Dog), but once past that, the warm, unpredictable glow of the stylist pop confectioner and his inspired compatriots settle in to an early '70s Todd Rundgren vibe. Instead of self-indulgent and forced, this is quite fun.

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