Artist: Ted McCloskey
Album: "The Last of the Pin-Up Girls"
Label: Voodoo Cat
Ted McCloskey’s recent record, 2011’s “Almost Sentimental,” found the State College bard grooving and grumbling through society’s repugnance and pedestrianism. When cynicism and exhaustion wears one down, what’s the hardest working rocker in central Pennsylvania to do? Road trip, of course.
Some clean air in his lungs does McCloskey good on “The Last Of The Pin-Up Girls,” his eighth album. He’s bound for the West Coast with detours throughout the United States heartland, struggling to make sense of his existence and exploring the tones, timbres and textures of Americana imagery — both iconic and kitsch — along the way.
With McCloskey relaying the record’s concept in the liner notes, the narrative and lyrical content are literal and direct. McCloskey’s thesis is pretty clear: It’s hard to find your niche in life; people are vague, condescending and hypocritical all over; and there’s little solace in the companionship of diner waitresses and Red State femme fatales who are “all kinds of wrong tonight.” Even the good folks get beaten down by life, a depressing sight to bear witness to.
By the time we reach the Pacific on the closing number, “A Stranger Rides Out of Town,” you’ll probably see the big moment of catharsis coming from a mile away — McCloskey affirms sole control over his destiny, and feels a little homesick, too.
McCloskey’s musicianship throughout the album is superb. Handling the lion’s share of the instrumentation, there’s plenty of his buoyant garage rock brash- cutting guitar lines, insanely good keyboard licks, and nods to the punk and surf genres — but McCloskey deviates into other genres, making for some album highlights.
The title track and “Never Gonna Be One of Them,” are hearty, fiddle-lead country romps. “Discount Cigarettes and Gasoline” is a moody blues shuffle cloaked in a haze of organ and guitar distortion. “In The Funhouse Mirror” is a woozy, minor-key ragtime toodle-loo that flips a middle finger to the fakes. An accordion graces the light samba of “Living Dangerously,” helping our nomadic narrator shake off a hangover and resolve to embrace life’s risks. All these styles are filtered through McCloskey’s indie rock sensibilities, to fine effect.
Wherever McCloskey’s soul searching takes him, here’s to hoping several of the “Pin-Up” songs find their way into future setlists.ہ
Ted McCloskey will host a CD release show at 8 p.m. Aug. 18 at Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks, 100 W. Main St., Millheim. Visit www.elkcreek.net or call 349-8850 for more information.