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Bobby Conn's Llovessonngs

Wednesday, Nov 10 1999
Bobby Conn
(Thrill Jockey)

It seems at times that Bobby Conn takes the "savant" out of "idiot savant"; for all his knowledge of rock 'n' roll history, he lives to undermine it by, frankly, thinking with his dick. Though he's possessed of a wicked genius for reappropriating the '60s and '70s free-love culture -- and all the Formica kitsch that comes along with it -- it's obvious Conn has rented Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls about 10 too many times. He's in love not only with that movie's debauched master of ceremonies Z-Man Barzell ("This is my happening and it freaks me out!"), but also the groovy-baby rock that made up its soundtrack. Austin Powers is alive and well and living in Chicago.

Conn's music might be little more than the work of an overearnest a shtick-meister if its creator weren't so obviously sincere in his presentation; when he performed at Bottom of the Hill earlier this year, he came on like Mick Jagger's slightly disturbed second cousin, decked out in thick eyeliner and a cape and ranting about the apocalypse. Last year's hilarious, brilliant album Rise Up! depicted Conn's quasi-fascistic plan for the world by plotting a "United Nations under the rule of Satan" and applying for excommunication by proclaiming, "Jesus, he came back!/ Jesus, high on crack!" in his best disco soul-maven voice. For Llovessonngs, a four-song stopgap EP, Conn continues the theme he started on the song "White Bread," in which he threatened, "I'm gonna do you all/ In my satin Speedo." The opening "Free Love" is extended organ-driven schlock-pop wherein Conn demands to know "where all the dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty people go," mainly because he fancies himself the coordinator of an orgy. So only the brave dare translate the French lyrics of "Virginia," though it works just fine as an unadulterated funk throwaway.

The cover of Caetano Veloso's ode to his sister, "Maria Bethania," might be a bit of Brazilian-pop bandwagoneering on Conn's part, though it's just as likely that Conn is simply appreciating bossa nova's pre-'90s-boom status as make-out music. Conn's twisted heart truly breaks free on the cover of Harry Nilsson's "Without You," seemingly recorded in an echo chamber and played at half-speed. Over the haunting tinkle of a toy piano, Conn bawls his eyes out with, "You always smile but in your eyes your sorrow shows," a line that's just perfect for a would-be heartbreaker. Fair warning: The vinyl version of the EP spoofs the Nilsson Schmilsson cover, though the bathrobe hangs all-too-loosely on Conn's lanky frame, and the photo is cropped all-too-poorly. You can't be too careful with rock 'n' roll sex gods these days.

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


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