Seattle Weekly, August 2002

Are you ready for the Beach Shop Boys?

While songwriter/keyboardist Hoffman may be remembered in most quarters as playing Ed McMahon to flamboyant out/proud singer Lance Loud's Johnny Carson in '70s pop anarchists the Mumps, over the years he's worked with a slew of famous faces. Here he rings up some of those pals for 17 tunes with decidedly delightful over-the-top results. Right from the git-go, on tumescent power- popper "Devil May Care," Hoffman and legendary Sparks castrato Russell Mael are on the prowl for sleaze 'n' succor. (The pairing's all the more inspired when you realize that erstwhile Sparks member Earle Mankey is handling production chores on the album.) The tragic romantic ballad "Scarecrow," part piano ballad and part show tune, finds H. and Rufus Wainwright gazing misty-eyed at the stars and clicking their stiletto heels together three times: Oh, don't you just know they wish they were at home, tucked in nice and safe by Auntie Em and Papa Loudon III! And the steamy team ups just keep coming, including memorable ones with Maria McKee, Ann Magnuson, Lydia Lunch, El Vez, Michael Quercio, and Redd Kross' Steve McDonald. But interestingly, the standout track, "Revert to Type," finds Hoffman taking center stage. Backed by Brian Wilson's old collaborator Van Dyke Parks' lush-life string/horn arrangements, he croons, warbles, and emotes in a swooping falsetto worthy of Freddie Mercury, with just enough hint of Neil Tennant nancing about in the wings to suggest that the band name Beach Shop Boys has potential. All this and a spoken-word cameo from Pee-Wee Herman? Just smashing, dah-link!

- Fred Mills

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