By Mabel Suen
By Cassie Kohler
By Evan C. Jones
By RFT Music
By RFT Music
By Tom Finkel
By Ryan Wasoba
By Roy Kasten
Airy, open piano chords, brushed drums and organ accents usher in John Maxfield's latest record with the cocktail-jazz instrumental "Theme to Hullabalooga," a sly hint that the album may be more ambitious than most of its rock/pop contemporaries. In a way, it is different; the album relies more on the soft edges of piano jazz. And as it does on Joe Jackson's Night & Day, this trope pairs nicely with classic pop songcraft – but only when Maxfield lets pop structures trump the jazz flourishes. At seven minutes, "I Miss Her" feels interminable, with a tenor saxophone solo droning on much longer than the lyrical portion. Likewise, the "band on the run" tale of "Back on the Bus" attempts to trade Brill Building pop for a Mothers of Invention-esque freak out, but it comes out sounding like They Might Be Giants minus the humor. Maxfield is better at the disconsolate "Total Disaster" and especially the zippy power-pop stomper "Black and Blue" – the songs give a better framework for his catchy melodies and sharp-cornered hooks.
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