14 Old Messages
'...catchy pop...I think with a little help this kid could become the next great singer/songwriter of our generation.' --Smother.net (9/05) 'Sort of reminds me of that Billy Bragg/Beautiful South/EBTG 80's period of really melancholy horn-driven pop. Or maybe a bizzaro-world Fountains of Wayne. It's a really heartbreakingly beautiful pop record like they don't make 'em.' --Dan Bryk '14 Old Messages' is Landis' ambitious second platter. Landis sings his black heart out over all sorts of memories, both real and imagined, in musical settings both familiar and disorienting. Landis' self-mocking, mock-solipsistic lyrics and nostalgia-tinged new melodist pop evokes both the alleged golden age of singer-songwriter pathos AND sad-sack contemporaries Oberst, Barzelay and Wainwright. Opening with a musically twisted answering machine message and ending with a heartrending ballad, '14 Old Messages' deftly swings between extremes of regret and quiet rebellion. It's telling that the album's emotional (and literal) centerpiece is 'Old Friends', an astonishingly ambivalent generational kiss-off that unwittingly echoes old man (Loudon) Wainright's 1975 'Old Friend' then takes that sentiment to emotional extremes: 'everyone grew up and old/and fat and tired and slow and cold/now they all live down on memory lane' before ultimately conceding that 'all we have any more is the past.' Obsessively repulsed by that past, Landis writes as if discovering an old answering machine message from himself, only to discover that the 'real world' they sold him as a kid never really existed, that the childhood heroes of all his favourite movies are suddenly the underdogs. (cf. 'Where did it all go south/Who put those words in my mouth/How can we get clean/of the shit in which we're doused?' from 'State of the Union'). If that sounds unbearably bitter, well f*** it, it probably is... but when wrapped in some of the sweetest, most melancholic pop of recent memory it makes for a compelling, hell, compulsively addicting listen. This is a guy whose idea of escape is asking his lover to put all her stuff in a shopping cart and go homeless with him ('We'll pick poison berries/and aluminum cans') and makes it sound not only winsome, but seductive. One more stand-out track (amongst 14 songs, each with enough wry monologue for a screenplay) is 'Shine', which begins promisingly enough with Landis dancing in the moonlight, warbling 'every step I take/begins to shine' over an dance floor of illuminated disco tiles ('like it's the Billie Jean video/and I'm Mike with his old nose') before crashing head-first into the ultimate casting-couch-walk-of-fame dystopia: 'Lie down/I'm gonna step on you/Gonna make you mine.' Like 'Feast of Scraps', '14 Old Messages' was obsessively overdubbed by Landis in his home studio, with Landis singing and playing each and every note (including trumpet, guitar, and piano). '14 Old Messages' will hold your hair back as you vomit, commiserate as you cry, and laugh at you behind your back. While Corey Landis admittedly doesn't rewrite any rule books of pop songwriting, he clearly loves scribbling in the margins.