Sean Na Na Family Trees - or - CoPe We Must
It's been five years since the talented and versatile Sean Tillman last released a record under the Sean Na Na moniker. The Marshall, Minnesota-reared performer has been busy titillating audiences around the world with the ironic and egomaniacal party-goin' strut of Har Mar Superstar, a smooth grooving he-diva perpetually inclined to shakin' his booty (the kind of character who's actually within his element when wearing pink hot pants in TV spots for Vladivar Vodka). As Sean Na Na, however, Tillman has always seemed utterly sincere, so it's no surprise to find earnest reflection in his latest batch of lyrical narratives. But with all Tillman's undeniable charisma, it's surprising how relaxed—and even painfully blasé—the tracks on Family Trees come across.
Gone to the big dance and now back to tell his story, Tillman seems to be summing up the lessons he's learned. Whether he's singing about being comfortable with his body ("Photo Booth") or his life ("Hairspray"), the ultimate message is to just keep on keepin' on. It's valid—commendable, even—but hardly engaging. The band is tight, the production is big, there are flashes of arena-ready rock power ("The Hunter" and "Black Bag") and plenty of hooks, but none really sink deep enough. Perhaps it's the lack of backing vocals and studio sounds, but the album's most powerful riffs and melodies just don't leave a lasting impact. Sean Na Na makes you miss Har Mar's intensity, if not his hot pants.
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