Holiday in Dirt (New West)
Reviewed by Marc Savlov, Fri., March 4, 2005
Holiday in Dirt (New West)
L.A.'s Stan Ridgway, the avuncular neo-noir singer-songwriter formerly known as "that guy on the Mexican radio" has always had a penchant for cinematic flair. His best work, going back to Wall of Voodoo's "Call of the West" and moving through solo work like The Big Heat and Mosquitoes, plays like unrealized screenplays set to music, Billy Wilder on a bender with Ross MacDonald in Fifties Hollyweird. Of late, Ridgway's music has lost some of its inherent darkness; there's nothing so lyrically melancholy as "Lonely Town" on his recent album Holiday in Dirt, although the siren song of sadness is never far away, either. This companion piece to that CD offers 14 short films/videos that vary wildly in quality and tone. Steve Hanft's "Bing Can't Walk," originally from the soundtrack to 1987 Tom Hulce anomaly Slam Dance, tangles a noirish narrative line with one of Ridgway's best, least-appreciated songs. Rick Fuller's "Beloved Movie Star," which crops up no less than twice here, is similarly entranced by the Los Angeles native's silver-screen backdrop, as is Carlos Grasso's "End of the Line," which parlays Ridgway's harmonica over a bilingual story of a struggling artist and his cracked and faded muse/landlady-from-hell. While none of the short films come anywhere close to capturing the sheer naked poignancy of Ridgway's finest songs, they all nail the songwriter's obsessions with Hollywood's drifters, dime-store drunks, and dead-end kids. For the real deal, though, nothing beats the man in the flesh. (Thursday, March 17, 12mid, Cactus Cafe)
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