An Insult to the King
A Pittsburgh native who's spent the past several years in the Austin, Texs, music scene, Mike Blackhurst has recently returned to our chillier climes. But he hasn't come back empty-handed: He brings with him Cuttin' Onions, a new disc by Sprinkler in the Rain, a band in which he plays guitar and writes many of the songs. He's also got solo releases, including the tasty recent full-length, An Insult to the King.
The disc's 14 songs range from rootsy Tom Petty stomp ("Wool Heart") to mournful ballads with swirly ambiance reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie's Plans ("City Seasons"). Piano-based numbers like "Unravelled" (sic) and the closer "Girl Waiting" tap into a nostalgic '70s vibe that suggests Elton John's "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" ... or maybe it's just Ben Folds' "Brick."
But the real focus of this disc is squarely on quirky pop of the early Costello variety, with stinging guitars chasing bass and drums through intriguing rhythmic shifts, especially on the excellent opener, "Swallowing Dust." At times, Blackhurst's nasal tenor voice sounds like a mix of Steve Wynn and Pittsburgh ex-pat Ed Masley, the latter a similarity reinforced by a shared obsession with brainy guitar-based power-pop.
Blackhurst says he's not planning on playing live anytime soon, but if An Insult to the King is any indication, somebody oughta start circulating a petition.