Magnet, No. 55, Aug/Sep 2002

Kristian Hoffman, the musical force behind CBGB/Max's-era combo Lance Loud & The Mumps, returns with another self-orchestrated, twee-pop masterpiece. But is anybody listening?

Maybe & - an album of duets with 15 fellow travelers like Rufus Wainwright, Van Dyke Parks, Lydia Lunch, El Vez and Russell Mael (Sparks) - will garner Hoffman the audience he richly deserves.

Mael's limber falsetto swoops over Hoffman's grainy tenor like a swallow in full flight. The heartstopper here, cut with Wainwright, is "Scarecrow." It's a chilling vignette ("A rifle butt against the head/Because we'd heard it said/That only God can make a man") of the Matthew Shepard hate crime. More than a political tract in Hoffman's hands, "Scarecrow" is a slowly unfolding moonlight sonata that interpolates eerie snippets from "If I Only Had a Brain." Hoffman's heart, of course, is never in question.

- Jud Cost

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