Paramount Styles' debut album, Failure American Style, opens with "Alleyesareonyounowmypet," a stark after-hours tale delivered in an understated, raspy croon. But the heart of the album is arguably "Drunx, Whores & MZK People," offering a gentle country pulse and cinematic synths coupled with the wry admonishment: "Yeah all the drunks, whores and music people are looking for your arms tonight / ... I think they know you won't say no."
Paramount Styles is the new musical project of Scott McCloud, former vocalist for '90s post-punks Girls Against Boys. After releasing several records on Touch and Go, Girls Against Boys dropped Freak*on*ica on major label Geffen, and soon dropped out of sight. The band rallied with 2002's You Can't Fight What You Can't See, on Jade Tree, and continues to perform.
With Failure American Style, released earlier this year, McCloud's whispery voice retains its sense of innuendo and intrigue, while at times echoing the Greg Dulli school of snarl. There's also a taste of the underground-rock era that birthed Girls Against Boys, especially in "Paradise Happens," where both the strummy chord progression and the lyrics conjure up Daydream Nation-vintage Sonic Youth. "They're gonna class you up till you're all out of class," McCloud intones, "you know what happens? Paradise happens."
Lightly fleshed out with cello, piano, ambient guitars and a rhythm section, the album also includes an instrumental interlude ("One Last Surprise"), touches of David Sylvian luminosity ("These Starry Nights") and even an insistent, up-tempo rocker toward the end ("I Keep Losing You"). In each instance, though, the main ingredients are McCloud's acoustic guitar and world-weary vocals. And that's doubtless what will be primarily on display when McCloud plays 31st Street Pub on Fri., Dec. 19 (a show organized by CP contributor Manny Theiner), accompanied by musicians including Enon's John Schmersal.
Paramount Styles with Karl Hendricks Trio and Broughton's Rules. 10 p.m. Fri., Dec. 19. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $8. 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com