I've always been under the impression that schizophrenia is a bad thing. Coupling it with a nasty case of ADHD sounds downright unpleasant. But on Terry Eason's latest CD, Sentimental Vanity, the local pianist/guitarist cleverly manages to corral 10 songs of frenetic, quirky, spastic piano pop into a strangely cohesive album that is at once intelligent and goofily fun. The complexity and intricacies of this album can largely be credited to the talent Eason recruited to record it, including Erik Fratzke on bass, Jessy Greene on violin, and Ryan Lovan on drums.
Eason's songwriting is a little bit Tom Waits and a whole lot They Might Be Giants. In fact, opening track "Megalomaniac" is so reminiscent of TMBG that I couldn't help but groan a bit. Don't get me wrong—I'm a fan of They Might Be Giants and their quirky, catchy brand of goof rock. But I like it when they play it, not when it's parroted by someone else. But I forgave Eason in the time it took to listen to the next song, "Miracle Man." It's an upbeat, jumpy sing-along with high-pitched backing vocals pulled thin like taffy, though the lyrics couldn't be more morose: "Forget about going to school today/And get to the hospital/Dad's still alive but closed his eyes/And barely breathing." Somehow Eason manages to make this mismatch between music and lyrics work, illuminating the emotional complexity of the subject.
Eason finally relaxes a bit on "Never Knew You." Instead of pounding on the piano like it's a snare drum, he lets this song breathe with a fluidity and ease that is missing on the rest of the album—a brief but necessary respite.
Sentimental Vanity is in turn exhilarating, exhausting, confounding, and alarmingly intimate. You find yourself wanting to dig around in Eason's head—and afraid of what you might find there.
TERRY EASON performs a CD-release show on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, at the 331 CLUB; 612.331.1746
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