Dear Sub Pop Records: Please put out a Fun with Kelley Stoltz On Stage album. I’m not kidding. Digital-only would be fine. I love Stoltz’s music, but the dude is seriously hilarious. He had everyone at Union Hall on Friday in stitches the whole time. Anecdotes, accents, one-liners…Stoltz is a master of them all. He would also make a good Color Commentator for baseball games, or some other role on television.
Of course he’s a great songwriter and performer too. To Dreamers is Stoltz’ fifth album (not counting Crokodials, the front-to-back redo of the first Bunnymen LP), and third for Sub Pop, and is his most polished collection of ’60s influenced pop yet. Mind you when I say “polished” we’re talking about a devout home taper, who works exclusively in analog. But the new album is full-on mid-fi, probably using a lot of the same equipment his heroes considered to be high fidelity back in the day.
Stoltz told some good stories about the new album. “Pinecone,” which has an undeniable Fred Neil/Harry Nilsson vibe to it, came from him trying to bring back the titular item from New Zealand and getting stopped at Customs. For “Fire Escape” he talked about an old apartment that had a wooden fire escape that the landlord liked to store old cardboard boxes underneath. It didn’t end well, though the story was hilarious. “This song, is about happier fire escape memories.”
Good spirits all around thanks in part to the unique nature of this tour. Kelley is currently on the road with fellow Bay Area band Sonny & the Sunsets who doubled as Kelley’s backing band. And when Sonny played, Kelley was on drums. (He’s a good drummer, chalk up another skill.) You need a lot of camaraderie when everyone is doing double duty. Sonny and Kelley joked a lot on stage, the former more of a straight man to the latter’s setups and punchlines.
As to the music, both were pretty solid. I was a little disappointed with Stoltz’s setlist. We didn’t get “To Speak to the Girl” (my favorite off Circular Sounds) or the current single “I Don’t Get That,” which they eschewed in favor of that jam the incorporates both Lou Rawls “Groovy People” and Pharaoh Sanders’ “The Creator’s Got a Master Plan” which I’d seen him do before. But “Pinecone” was awesome, as was “Do You Want to Rock and Roll With Me” and “I Remember You Were Wild” and TV commercial favorite “Birdies Singing.” His voice is dropping, octave-wise, sounding more and more like TSOOL’s Ebbot Lundberg.
I was a little disappointed with Sonny & the Sunsets’ set. The album is very minimal, yet nuanced. Live they are much more a rock band and I missed the little production and arrangement touches that grace Tomorrow is Alright. I think if I hadn’t been wanting to hear the record reproduced live, I woulda liked it more. The band was tight enough, it just wasn’t the Sunsets I was expecting.
It was however a treat to hear Stoltz on the drumkit, to which he excels at. During his own set when he was praising The Sunsets and, especially, their drummer… well, we get it now. Somebody get this guy a TV show. Rimshot!
If you pre-order To Dreamers from Sub Pop, you get a free CD of unreleased songs. Also the vinyl comes with a song not on the CD! I haven’t seen that since “Hey You!”