Hyperbolium gives David Serby and The Latest Scam a very cool review
February 22nd, 2014
David Serby and The Latest Scam
L.A. honky-tonker goes power-pop
David Serby’s Honkytonk and Vine revisited 1980s Los Angeles’ honky-tonk with its cowboy-booted country twang. Serby’s follow-up, Poor Man’s Poem, turned from honky-tonk to folk-flavors, but still kept its roots in country. So what to make of this double-album turn to the sunshine harmonies and chiming electric guitars of power pop? Well first off, the change in direction works. Really well. You can hear influences of both ’60s AM pop (particularly in the faux sitar of “You’re Bored”) and late ’70s power pop and rock, including Gary Lewis, the Rubinoos, and the Records. Serby’s quieter vocals are full of the romantic yearning one would normally ascribe to a love-sick teenager; it’s the bedroom confession of a twenty-something who’s finally enunciating out loud what’s been confusing him for years. Disc two rocks harder and more country than disc one, but even the two-step “I Still Miss You” is set with chiming 12-string and wistful answer vocals. The country-rock “Gospel Truth” brings to mind Rockpile and the Flamin’ Groovies, and the cheating-themed “Rumor of Our Own” connects to Serby’s honky-tonk background. Each of these ten-track discs would have made a good album on their own, but together they show off a terrific continuum of pop, rock, country and a touch of the blues. Serby’s reach across country, folk and rock were evident in his earlier releases, but the pure pop side is a welcome surprise. [©2014 Hyperbolium]
Country Standard Time give David Serby and The Latest Scam a great review.
Country Standard Time
David Serby and the Latest Scam
Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh
David Serby’s latest, which introduces his new band, the Latest Scam (the moniker’s inspired by a Nick Lowe lyric), somewhat announces a new, more rocking direction for the SoCal singer/songwriter. Country and roots rock fans need not be alarmed, though, because a song like “Everybody Loves a Fool” (and others) contain plenty of hearty twang.
This slight change in musical direction may be bringing much of the special attention to this two-CD set, but Serby’s detailed storytelling skills are far more attention-grabbing. Like a musical Raymond Carver, Serby gets right to the heart of the relationship problem described in “Better With My Hands.” Over a tortuously slow musical bed, the man in this song is a mechanic and good with his hands whenever he’s working on his vintage El Camino. These skills don’t help him one iota when it comes to communicating with his ever-distancing girl, though. You end up really empathizing with this guy because there’s no tool in his box to fix his relationship. “What She’s Running From,” about a mysterious girl that’s “intoxicating and impossible thin,” is another revealing character study. Her friends all know she’s running from something, but nobody can quite figure out what it is.
Serby says bands like Rockpile had a big impact on the style of these songs, and you can certainly hear that band’s bar band vibe running through a track like “Gospel Truth” with its rumbling electric guitar and cheeky lyrics.
Whether singing over a country or a rock beat, Serby always vocalizes with a smooth, inviting voice that makes whatever style he’s inhabiting at the moment sound in character. At 20 songs long and filled with so much great storytelling, Serby’s Latest Scam is the absolute opposite of a rip-off, so don’t misjudge this book by its cover.