Pardon My Mess
REVIEWS: The Boston Globe 'Warmly sophisticated songs... a revelation.' - Steve Morse, 3/23/01 'Here's an inspiring lesson for all of you musicians toiling away in Sisyphean fashion in jam bands. Brian Gottesman, who once played keyboards in the popular groove-funk outfit Chucklehead, escaped from the evil world of cats in oversized hats and feel-good party music, and lived to tell about it. Gottesman now fronts a band that bears his name, and the music is about as un-Chucklehead as you can get. His most recent long-player, 'Pardon My Mess,' is a charming collection of sophisticated tunes that is far more Elliott Smith than Dave Matthews. Let Gottesman's thoughtful tunes liberate you from tie-dye. Come out to the Middle East tonight and show your support for Gottesman's brave, artistically savvy liberation.' - Christopher Muther, 3/13/02 The Boston Herald Top Ten Independent Albums 2001 - 'While national recording artists of all stripes hog much of the coverage during the year, terrific local groups are slugging it out in the trenches here in Boston. Often those musicians are as good as, and sometimes better, than most of what's getting airplay, and they deserve recognition. Brian Gottesman, 'Pardon My Mess': A gifted crooner, Gottesman evokes everyone from Todd Rundgren to Matthew Sweet on this album of blue-mood ruminations.' - Sarah Rodman, 12/21/01 'The immensely gifted, golden-throated Brian Gottesman details the ways a heart can be broken on his excellent power pop-hard rock-funky backbeat solo debut 'Pardon My Mess'.' - Sarah Rodman, 8/30/01 Portland Press Herald 'Best CD I received in the mail in 2001' - Ben Monaghan - 1/2/02 'It was never clear to me why, at the height of their popularity, [Chucklehead] decided to pull the plug... With the recent release of former keyboardist and band founder Brian Gottesman's solo debut, 'Pardon My Mess', it is now becoming clear. There is a lot more to Gottesman's talent than Chucklehead would allow. Throwing off the fetters of being part of an act, Gottesman delves deep into his psyche, returning with soulful piano ballads and up-tempo, funky guitar-driven songs depicting his journey from painful loss to purpose regained. The territory is as old as the ages, but Gottesman's mature lyric-writing and sophisticated arrangements keep it from being too familiar. Gottesman has the unique distinction of reminding me of Joe Jackson. His voice, sense of composition and forceful honesty echo some of Jackson's finest work. Yet unlike other performers who bring certain artists to mind, the comparison seems more the result of similar musical backrounds than of imitation. Like Jackson, Gottesman was formally introduced to music at a young age, studying piano, learning classical and ragtime. Later he picked up the guitar and French horn, and, again like Jackson, took a long detour into dance-happy rhythms. They stray from one another when Gottesman lays down a fine country waltz like the title track, 'Pardon My Mess', or picks some funky riffs in burners like 'Nothing I Can Do', and again when he adds a carnival backbeat of horn and snare drum on 'Find Our Feet.' But overall, if you have been waiting for the musical continuation of Jackson's mid-80's work, here it is.' - Ben Monaghan, 8/16/01 StarPolish (website) [review of 3 mp3's: 'Nothing I Can Do', 'Into the Morning' & 'I'd Die'] 'His production is clean, his songs fresh and imaginative, his performance uncluttered by pretension. It adds up to a winning combination for Brian Gottesman, whose gift for deft lyrical twists ('Nobody's perfect, but nobody's you' ... 'high on daydream vapors' ... 'I don't care if the sidewalk trips my rhythm') is as satisfying as his ear for musical nuance. Gottesman acknowledges Ben Folds as an influence, and you can hear it in the paradoxical vocals -- deadpan, yet strangely touching, with fragile falsetto episodes -- and in his jazz-inflected chords, carefully assembled vintage keybord textures, tinny acoustic piano jabs, odd melodic peaks, and dark imagery. This is especially apparent on 'I'd Die,' in which Gottesman celebrates the depth of his love by referring repeatedly to his own demise as the highest measure of his affection. He simplifies things a bit on 'In the Morning,' with verses structured mainly over a I-IV pattern -- but the predictability of this pattern sets up the surprising slowdown on the final bridge into the last half of the tune. The arrangement on each of these tracks makes full use of minimal resources; a series of single long notes sustained on organ gives the second verse of 'Nothing I Can Do' all the push it needs toward the balls-out chorus... What is clear is that Gottesman has a gift for assembling comprehensive musical statements from tiny parts. You could call this a postmodern technique, born from the exhaustion of the sixteen-bar formula. As listeners learn to appreciate this kind of work, the odds grow stronger for something completely unexpected: a reinvigoration of pop composition at it's most fundamental level. If that happens, our debt to artists like Gottesman will only grow clearer.' Boston Soundcheck 'Upon experiencing Brian Gottesman's solo debut (he was formerly of the very popular band Chucklehead and Rype) my first feeling was that of admiration, admiration for the apparent heartfelt care and time he put in to make this album sound as lush and meticulous as it did. My reverence, however, extended beyond the music into Brian as a person. Pardon My Mess is openly (lyrically and acknowledged in his bio) about the journey of emotions through a heart aching breakup. Though I am sure the writing of this album was cathartic for Brian, the fact that he so honestly and consciously pours this very personal pain onto a recording is, to me, admirable. One of the wonderful aspects of Pardon My Mess is that the songs string along like sections of a play or story. We open with what I felt was the best tune on the CD, the dynamic, distinct, ultra hip and catchy 'Nothing I Can Do' (this song should get radio play, if it isn't already); reading the words of this song we know the premise of Pardon My Mess, the message simply being I miss you, wish I didn't but I can't help it - 'I'm wasting away in recollection/High on daydream vapors... By now I should be free or feeling better.' This snappy rocked-out pop song segues into the beautiful piano-led number 'Ganymede' - in fact, many of the songs on Pardon My Mess are dominated by Brian's emotive piano playing, including another strong track 'Bottom's Up'. Every inch of his soul eases through from his fingers to the keys, the mind to the pen, the heart to the voice sauntering over the speakers. The gamut of emotions from this loss is covered with music to match: loneliness, disbelief, but also, importantly, hope, strength, and the attempt thereof to let go and move on, such as in the jangly rocker (another great song, by the way) 'Survive' where Brian sings, 'Got another life/Got a new life to survive'; the funky folk 'I Got Something'; and the introspective, acoustic 'The Ghost of Close Embrace', which offers, 'Must make peace, must let go.' In the end, Brian closes this reflective, emotional ride with the hopeful, upbeat 'Find Our Feet.' Pardon My Mess is a beautiful, poetic and, yes, enjoyable piece of work. Sure, we pardon your 'mess' because, Brian, it's a mess that too many of us have stepped into and, eventually, out of ourselves.' 3.75 stars (out of 4)
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