Obviously, no music would exist today had it not drawn on and then perpetuated genres and styles that came before it. With that said, there has to be a balance between continuing a particular sounds evolution and merely regurgitating the music of ones most beloved influence. In the case of Abe Vigoda, the tropical punk band from LA, theyve tossed that balance right out the window and have opted to straight up cloak themselves in the skin of one such icon: David Bowie.
From note one, lead singer Michael Vidal channels every bit of androgynous sex appeal and cockiness The Thin White Duke ever exuded. And therein lies the problem, one that Repeating Angel best exemplifies. At its very best, the track is the kind of muted jungle anthem that the band delivers on a regular basis. Theres something dark and mysterious to the quiet ambience that is built. At its very worst, the spot-on Bowie vocals illustrate the key dilemma of the album. If youre going to like that sort of thing, then youll have no issues. But if youve got a problem with what is tantamount to defiling the grave of old Bowie albums, the repeated verse will make you want to ch-ch-ch-change the CD posthaste. Album closer We Have To Mask only furthers the divide. Gone is the beat of Abe Vigoda’s own music, replaced instead with a mutant hybrid, a number ripped from Station To Station without enough of the band’s own manipulation to make it sound anything less than straight sonic plagiarism. Oh, what wonderful sonic plagiarism it is, too, which will inevitably lead the listener to ask if its good because of the band or because of the musical colossus from which it stems.
While most of the record comes off like an identity crisis or a bad acid trip into the band’s vinyl collection, Crush as an album offers a few moments of less intensive hero worship. Between a number of slow synth waltzes, the title track is a big, pulsing rocker that tears away all that ambivalent dance-rock in a tsunami of simple rebellion. Less grandiose, but with just as much impact, Pure Violence has a depressingly catchy hook and a rapid-fire way about it, streamlining a lot of that New Wave energy. Throwing Shade, to a certain extent, is even adept at taking a very synth-heavy beat and getting to the heart of what makes Bowie so good: a kind of intellectual sultriness and a vibe of totally accessible other worldliness. You could almost be him, and yet you could never even get close, and while the band has seemingly missed that point, theres at least some hope for this space oddity.
Everyone wants to be like their idols. They stand as something greater than us while informing our worldview. The fact that Abe Vigoda flew too close to the sun that is Mr. Bowie will be a breaking point for a lot of people on this record. Good or bad, though, theres no denying theyd make a killer cover band. Ziggy and the Stardusts, anyone?