Louie Austen: Only Tonight
Tom Jones is a star because he has managed to confuse his audience: No one can tell if he's good-bad or bad-bad. And judging by his strange forays into the world of entertainment, Jones can't tell, either. He happily sang his song "It's Not Unusual" during a very unusual massacre scene in 1996's Mars Attacks, proving that he'll wave his camp flag proudly even when his music is torturing listeners. And then, a few years later, Jones released Reload, which found him covering the most heinous songs of Three Dog Night and Randy Newman while enlisting the help of talented groups like the Cardigans and the Pretenders. Surprisingly, Reload was good. Sometimes, the bad makes the good sound even better.
Perhaps that's why Louie Austen--a former hotel lounge singer who sounds like Tom Jones's answer to the electro circuit--is such an interesting phenomenon. Here's a guy who started his career at age 50, before which time he was singing songs from Hello Dolly in his native Vienna and jamming with Engelbert Humperdinck in New York City. But now, he's gained fame by collaborating with Berlin's sampler sexpot Peaches and found-sound expert Herbert. On his debut album Only Tonight, Austen sounds like a dirty old man who always lurked around the college dorm room--and finally managed to crash the freshman kids' dance party. And no one's kicking him out, even when he's singing lewd interludes like "Grab my shaft, pull my horn/When it's hard in the early morn" over some video-game synth melodies and syncopated handclaps.
Only Tonight is filled with the kind of self-aware glam performances that might have been perfect for making love in the disco era. "Music," for instance, sets slow funk to Austen's Barry White-ish sing-speak, "Baby, let me tell you how it is." And "One Night in Rio," sounds like the kind of rumba that should have backing vocals by Charo. With all of its ironic value and cheesy elements, the album actually turns out to be a really enjoyable and well-orchestrated piece of kitsch--especially with Austen's lyrics, which sound like geriatric porn. I suppose sometimes the bad makes the good sound even badder. And that's a good thing.
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