Music Review: Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra - For the Babydoll

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For the Babydoll, the new release by the Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra, opens with a sleazy, groovy blast of rock and roll, reminiscent of Lou Reed circa Coney Island Baby. The song, “Pitiful,” is an immaculately-produced slab of self-loathing (“Good for nothing, ‘cept for singing these blues”) decorated with sax and trumpet. These guys, led by singer/guitarist/keyboardist Tremulis (who wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks), have been around for years and the deft instrumental interplay shows it. This disc almost plays as a pastiche of numerous classic rock styles, but shot through with inventive, varied arrangements and impassioned lead vocals.

Every track has its own distinct flavor, with hooks that emerge over repeated listening. “You’re Gonna Lose (Everything You Got)” kicks and stomps like a Nuggets-era garage rock classic. “Without You With Me” positively shimmers, evoking a late-‘80s Jeff Lynne production. “You’re Too Much (But Never Enough” steamrolls everything in its path, its breathless delivery and lead licks recalling the Stones. “If God Were the Devil” sounds so much like a lost John Lennon track, I swear to God I thought I heard Yoko braying away in the background.

Make no mistake, I don’t mean to imply these guys (who also include John Pirruccello and Rick Barnes on guitars, Derek Brand on bass, and Larry Beers on drums) are a bunch of copycats. For the Babydoll was my introduction to the Orchestra and I’m only trying to give a point of reference for others who might be curious. Among my favorite tracks is “Everybody Here,” again adorned by the trumpet of Roger Reupert and sax of Paul Mertens. It’s a slinky, sexy-sounding groover with gorgeous guitar licks (think Robby Krieger on something like “Waiting for the Sun”). “Super Human Love” shuffles along agreeably during its verses, exploding with a memorable, sing-along chorus (“I don’t care about the rain/I’ll make my way to the train/Of super human love”).

For the Babydoll comes in an unusual package, a 36-page booklet roughly the size of a DVD case that includes a lengthy, personal essay by Tremulis (as well as complete song lyrics and credits). A photo of feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir (bare-assed and fortysomething at the time of the 1952 photo) graces the cover. While I would’ve preferred a hotter chick (I thought it was a guy at first glance, to be honest), but I’m digging the music and of course that’s all that really matters.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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