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Calling All Stars

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Album Review

The ex-Suburbs' first collection of pop songs in over a decade (he had been successfully composing scores for musical theater in the interim) continues and expands on the style he established with his Minneapolis alt-pop/funk-punk band. With a deep, mournful Bowie/Brian Ferry voice and stylized songs that incorporate his obtuse yet compelling stream-of-consciousness lyrics, Poling's album sounds like a less-aggressive version of the Psychedelic Furs. Poling's pathos-laced tunes resonate with a hypnotic sheen, incorporating elements of lounge, jazz, soul, and Tom Waits' twisty, beat-like, brittle jazz-rock on "Dig the World Spot." He also mines Leonard Cohen's passionate, dry, morning-after bellow, infusing even the most atmospheric tracks with a feverish undercurrent. Like Ferry's albums, this could use a few upbeat rockers to offset the softer pieces, which dominate the disc. But songs like "Sweet" spring from the same tough and moody alt-rock well as Romeo Void's "A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)"; it straddles both worlds remarkably well. Balancing his arty pretensions against melodies that swoop and glide, Poling proves he has a knack for writing densely poetic lyrics that resonate through the strength of his songs, crafty arrangements that never overwhelm the tunes' subtleties, and a smart, self-assured performance. By tapping into his new wave past and adding twangy, spaghetti western guitars, gypsy violins topped with a touch of punk's tensile anger, and a full dose of alienation, Poling has crafted a challenging, uncompromising album that best reveals its eclectic layers over repeated listenings.


Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Minneapolis native Chan Poling was the keyboard player and vocalist with angular dance-pop group the Suburbs, whose music provided the missing link between the smart but snotty tone of the city's new wave/punk scene and the quirky but thoughtful funk of Prince and his associated artists. The Suburbs formed in 1977 and released their first EP a year later; their first full-length, In Combo, followed in 1980, and the band's ambitious 1981 double album, Credit in Heaven, spawned a nationwide club hit...
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Calling All Stars, Chan Poling
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