With a résumé casually littered with a seminal punk band (ironically, the Nuns), opening for the Sex Pistols (and living down the hall from Sid and Nancy at the Chelsea Hotel), proto-alt-country outfits (Rank & File, True Believers), an Artist of the Decade declaration from No Depression (two years early in 1998), plus a string of solo albums whose critical acclaim far outshines his relative obscurity, Alejandro Escovedo is a rock 'n' roll survivor—literally as well as figuratively, since he's been living with hepatitis C, which nearly killed him five years ago. All of which (and much more) is reflected in Escovedo's extraordinary latest album, Real Animal (Back Porch/Manhattan), an autobiographical tour de force, all the songs written with buddy Chuck Prophet and produced by glam rock vet Tony Visconti. Far from maudlin, each song exquisitely captures an essential stop somewhere on the rock 'n' roll highway, from taut rockers with squalling guitars evoking Iggy Pop and the Stooges to gorgeous chamber-pop and radio-friendly glam rock ("Always a Friend"). Escovedo's references flash by with whiplash speed: Bowie, Lou Reed, Ian Hunter, Ike & Tina, Max's Kansas City, the Kinman bros, John Lennon, even Juan Marichal (the Dominican Dandy's first apparent rock 'n' roll incursion). Animal is overflowing with genuine heart and rock 'n' roll spirit, right down to the poignant last line: "Want to live in this moment/But I'm tangled in the past." But make no mistake, this is Escovedo's moment—perhaps his finest. 18+.
Wed., Oct. 15, 7:30 p.m., 2008
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