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Monday, March 31, 2008

Marshall Crenshaw - S/T, Field Day, Downtown, Mary Jean & 9 Others

Name: Marshall Crenshaw
Album(s): s/t~, Field Day`, Downtown*, Mary Jean & 9 Others^
Year(s): 1982~, 1983`, 1985*, 1987^
Style: Singer/Songwriter
Similar Bands: John Wesley Harding, Nick Lowe, Michael Penn, Buddy Holly, Gin Blossoms
"One-Word" Review: Tedious-Samey-Lacking-Pop
Based Out Of: Detroit, Michigan
Label: Warner Bros, Warner Communications,
Marshall Crenshaw - Cover
Marshall Crenshaw - Back
Field Day - Cover & Insert
Field Day - Back & Lyrics
Downtown - Cover & Inside

Downtown - Inside
Mary Jean & 9 Others - Cover & Insert
Mary Jean & 9 Others - Back & Insert
Field Day & Mary Jean & 9 Others- Records
Marshall Crenshaw (1982)
  1. There She Goes Again 2:37 (sample)
  2. Someday, Someway 2:49 (sample)
  3. Girls 3:01 (sample)
  4. I'll Do Anything 3:00 (sample)
  5. Rockin' Around in NYC 3:07 (sample)
  6. The Usual Thing 3:02 (sample)/
  7. She Can't Dance 2:45 (sample)
  8. Cynical Girl 2:35 (sample)
  9. Mary Anne 2:52 (sample)
  10. Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms) 2:36 (sample)
  11. Not For Me 2:34 (sample)
  12. Brand New Lover 2:30 (sample)
Field Day (1983)
  1. Whenever You're on My Mind 3:18 (sample)
  2. Our Town 4:10 (sample)
  3. One More Reason 3:33 (sample)
  4. Try 3:08 (sample)
  5. One Day With You 4:57 (sample)/
  6. For Her Love 3:01 (sample)
  7. Monday Morning Rock 3:31 (sample)
  8. All I Know Right Now 3:50 (sample)
  9. What Time Is It? 2:54 (sample)
  10. Hold It 3:46 (sample)
Downtown (1985)
  1. Little Wild One (#5) 3:55 (sample)
  2. Yvonne 3:53 (sample)
  3. Blues is King 3:49 (sample)
  4. Terrifying Love 4:05 (sample)
  5. Like A Vague Memory 4:09 (sample)
  6. The Distance Between 3:41 (sample)
  7. (We're Gonna) Sahke Up Their Minds 3:34(sample)
  8. I'm Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee) 3:21 (sample)
  9. Right Now 2:38 (sample)
  10. Lesson #1 4:10 (sample)
Mary Jean & 9 Others (1987)
  1. This Is Easy 3:49 (sample)
  2. A Hundred Dollars 4:03 (sample)
  3. Calling Out For Love (At Crying Time) 4:32 (sample)
  4. Wild Abandon 4:20 (sample)
  5. This Street 4:37 (sample)/
  6. Somebody Crying 3:23 (sample)
  7. Mary Jean 4:06 (sample)
  8. Steel Strings 5:04 (sample)
  9. 'Till That Moment 3:50 (sample)
  10. They Will Never Know 4:01 (sample)
Album Ratings (1-10):Marshall Crenshaw~: 5.0
Field Day`: 5.0
Downtown*: 5.0
Mary Jean & 9 Others ^: 4.5

Members & Other Bands:Marshal Crenshaw - Vox~`*^, Guitar~`*^, Producer~*, Bass*, Percussion*^
Richard Gottehrer - Producer~
Thom Panunzio - Engineer~*
Jim Ball - Asst. Engineer~
Greg Calbi - Mastered~`^
Peter Shukat - Attorney~`
Willy Schillinger - Sound Tech~
Gary Green - Concept & Photography~
Christina de Lanci - Oil Paint~
Spencer Drate - Art Direction~
Richard Sarbin - Management~`*
Chris Donato - Bass~`, Vox~`
Robert Crenshaw - Drums~`*^, Vox~`^
Tony Garnier - Bass~*
Michael Osborn - Percussion~` (Beat Rodeo?)
Harold M Lambert - Photography`
Ben Schnall - Photography`
Joel Peresman - Booking`*
Wayne Forte - Booking`*
Steve Lillywhite - Producer`
Scott Litt - Engineer`
Garry Rindfuss - Asst. Engineer`
Jon Babich - Asst. Engineer`
Tom Teely - guest vox`^, guitar^
Bob Miller - guest vox`
John Crenshaw - guest vox`
M& Co. - Design`
Larry Williams - Photography`
Robert Rakita - Special Effects`
T-Bone Burnett - Produced*, Linn Program*, Electric Sitar*, Vox* (Alpha Band, Guam)
Larry Hirsh - Producer*, Mixer*, Engineer*
Mitch Easter - Producer*, Piano*, guitar^ (Let's Active, Lava Love, The Sneakers)
Micky Curry - Drums *
Tony Levin - Bass* (King Crimson)
Mitchell Froom - Keys* (Gamma, Latin Playboys)
Tom Antolino - Drums*
Joey Spampinato - Bass* (NRBQ)
G.E. Smith - Guitar* (S.N.L.)
Faye Hunter - Bass* (Let's Active)
Jerry Marotta - Drums, Percussion & Bongos* (Orleans)
David Miner - Bass*, Cannon Plug* (The Great Society)
Warren Klein - Tamboura*
Steven Haigler - Engineer*
Bill Jackson - Engineer*
Lincoln Clapp - Engineer*
Victoria Pearson - Photography*
Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff - Art Direction*
Jeri McManus - Art Direction* & design*
Gina Vivona - Design*
Graham Maby - bass^ (They Might Be Giants, Joe Jackson)
Gary Burke - drum & percussion^
Don Dixon - Vox^, Producer^, Engineer^ (Dumptruck)
Marti Jones - Vox^ (Color Me Gone)
Thom Cadley - Asst^
John Hampton - Asst^
Collins & Taylor - Management^
Nick Egan - Art Direction^
Dean Chamberlain - Photography^ (Code Blue?)

Unknown-ness: I have heard of Marshall Crenshaw, and I marked him as a generic singer/songwriter. Solely based on the cover art, his first two look very interesting. They are bold with sharp colors, hinting to new wave rock, ala Elvis Costello. Then the second two dark and fuzzy covers give the feel that the music will be bland and boring. I first bought Field Day, and then later, I found his self titles & Mary Jean at the same shop. Later still, I came across the tape. Not having listened to anything from the first album I purchased, I bought them all with the same vague knowledge of Crenshaw.

Album Reviews: ~"There she goes again" starts his catalogue off. Immediately, I get the musical feel of Huey Lewis. His voice on the higher end and is polite and non-threatening. Somewhat like Michael Penn without as much range and not as deep and thick as John Wesley Harding. It is a catchy, back and forth bouncy beat. But it is not much more interesting than typical singer/ songwriter pop. "Someday Someway" fits him in line with Buddy Holly by way of Nick Lowe. It is another catchy pop tune. But this has more of a bouncy oldies radio sound. The verse of "Girls" has a slight new wave production to it, with an uncertain urgency. But this feels like a filler song that a middle-career act would put on a record. There are many harmonizing over-dubs and hand clapping along with a steady bass beat. "I'll Do Anything" starts with a good adventurous bass line, but the song just wanders overtop. The song seems calm and passive; even though the statement is that he'll do anything for 'you.' The message falls flat. There is just not anything that really makes his voice or songs stand out. The song structure is very basic, and for many I'm sure that is good, but I'm trying to find something memorable or distinct in these songs, and they are all good songs, but nothing I'll remember tomorrow. "Rockin' in NYC" follows the same flow. Where it should be a "rocking" song, it just guides itself with minimal instrumentation and a quiet handclap drive. The construction of the music reminds me of some of my favorite pop music: Big Star, Jellyfish, even the Beatles. But the production wisps it away without creating a memory. "The Usual Thing" is like a lite-country version of a more rockin' Chuck Berry song. "She Can't Dance" picks up the rock pace a little, but as it progresses maxes out with a whimper, rather than a follow-through. There is a lot of energy in the chorus, which is a fun back and forth swaying beat. And the song ends with a coming together and repetition of the chorus. The slowish marching beat of "Cynical Girl" is the first really distinctive song I've heard. It has a ringing guitar, and a up and down bass beat, and more hand clap rhythm section, but they come together and are produced with a fun, memorable quality. Guitars and a tambourine begin "Mary Anne." The vocals match the scale of the guitar note for note in the verse. But the song just flows along missing one more hook that could make it really good. "Soldier of Love" falls victim to a recreated oldies stylized pop song that loses its meaning in the update. "Not for Me" has an exciting bass line, and a quick paced drum beat, and backing vocals echoing the lead perfectly, but the song still feels like it lacks something. Either it has too much sound to be a better replica of oldies, or it does not have enough style to fit in with what was going on at the time. The ending does have an exciting reprise of the lyrics, but it is too little too late. "Brand New Lover" ends the first album with a rhythm similar to the oldie "Bread and Butter" and the chorus takes on a surf song mentality without the surf instrumentation. The repetitive quote, it is a good album, just not too memorable.
“Whenever You’re on My Mind” begins with slow jangely guitars. And the song never lifts itself from a light, easy listening singer-songwriter genre. “Our Town” is a little more upbeat and quicker, with more bouncy guitars and bass. But like the first album it fails to fit itself in one’s collective memory. I am reminded of the little knowledge I have of Toad the Wet Sprocket with this song. “One More Reason” is a marching filler track, with two simple sections both feeling like they could build to something that never materializes. The song just floats by, like the meandering tracks from a Robyn Hitchcock album. “Try” is more of a waltz time signature; it is still light and airy, without much substance. “One Day with You” is a sing song, head bobbing track. It features hand claps, and nothing else of note. There is a slightly rock-a-billy guitar solo in the instrumental bridge. Toward the end, he’s trying to show that he has energy, but it is masked under light production of the guitars’ and drums’ sound. “For Her Love” starts off with the missing rocking energy. It is instantly catchy, and the hooks that lead up to the chorus and the chorus itself are both memorable and interesting. “Monday Morning Rock” is predictably lazy, but not slow. It is a mid-tempo, toe-tapping pop-rock song. “All I Know Right Now” starts out like a slow ballad with a rock drumbeat. The drumbeat makes you think that the song will break pace and take off, but it never does. It sticks to a ballad tempo. “What Time Is It?” is in pendulum, sing-song oldie style, reminding me of ‘The Vogues.’ It is slow, ballad speed, but the earthy production in the over-layed chorus makes the song worth while. “Hold It” has 70’s rock (Boston) style backing vocals (only repeating Hold It) mixed into a regular Gin Blossoms style song.

Downtown begins with “Little Wild One (#5),” which sounds, in title, like an Elvis Costello song. It has a very country style sounding guitars and vocal delivery of more talking in melody than singing. There is an organ in the background, and the song comes off as a lazy small-town, Midwestern rock number. The song ends in a chorus of the title being chanted. “Yvonne” is a bouncy oldies style song, with a “Lay Your Hands On Me” rhythmic drum beat. But it still, like the rest of Crenshaw’s music, falls just short of interesting. “Blues Is King” begins with a more rock feeling, with harder drums, and a catchy guitar. His voice takes its time along the melody, rather than forcing too many syllables into a line. It is more enjoyable and interesting than the album so far. “Terrifying Love” is just a standard pop song, but it is lacking an extra segment that would really hook you in, and would make it great. “Like A Vague Memory” is a slow guitar strumming ballad, and I don’t expect it to go anywhere else than the sad western on-the-range minimal production. “The Distance Between” picks up the energy a little, and the song is organized like a pop single. The chorus is actually exciting and interesting, and the melody is catchy. The vocals follow the melody in an interesting fashion, and it kind of feels like an acoustic Soul Asylum song. ”Shake Up Their Minds” follows a simple oldies style of song, happy, bouncy and minimal so that the vocal melody takes center stage, which is good, but not too exciting or catchy. The cover of “I’m Sorry (But So Is Brenda lee)” follows a slow country guitar & drum rhythm. It sounds like it could have come off of Elvis Costello’s first album, but I still think Elvis would have side lined it as a B side (or a C-side). “Right Now” is a straight-forward oldie styled song. Bouncy bass, short guitar hooks, hand claps, and background bopping vocals. A rocking guitar instrumental leads us back into the verse. This song could have been from 1963. “Lesson #1” ends the record as a slow reflective song. The drum beat keeps the song from being a complete ballad.

“This is Easy” begins the fourth album by Crenshaw, picking up right where the last left off, except there is more to the production. It is thicker and deeper, yet still, not very impressive or memorable. If anything, the sound, is a little darker. “A Hundred Dollars” sounds like it should be out of a play, sung like a monologue. It is an introspective evaluation upon having a hundred dollars to spend on “you.” It still falls better as background music rather than anything that will grab attention. “Calling Out For Love” begins with a driving drum beat, and harder than usual guitar and bass hooks. If the song was more focused and sung a little faster, it would sound like a good Squeeze song. It is just too long of a song. “Wild Abandon” is a fun Footloose bouncy bass, hand clappin’ pop song. But after 2 minutes, it is already repeating its semi-catchy parts too much. Slipping down to a Caribbean feel “This Street” starts off with care free, happy guitars and steady drums (which sound synthesized). The feel is quickly abandoned for the regular singer songwriter basic pop sense that has made each song sound so similar. I often expect the song to pick up in certain areas, where it could become very catchy, but the song misses the mark each time. I cannot fault the song for what I would give it, but equally, I cannot say that the song is tremendously interesting either. As if it is part two of “This Street” there is hardly a change in sound on “Somebody Crying.” Except that the chorus is actually kind of catchy: the melody’s hook, if repeated a few times could actually stick. Unfortunately the part that is repeated the most toward the end of the song is not the very catchy chorus, but the dull, monotone secondary chorus. The title track, “Mary Jean” sounds like a typical boring Gin Blossoms song. “Steel Strings” alludes to the idea that it is better to have a real man rather than superman. But the song sounds like only half of the production is being aloud to come through. It feels empty. “Til That Moment” sounds like a throw away pop song, it lacks energy, but it fits in with the rest of the album. “They Will Never Know” is a slow, light, smooth, easy listening song.
So yes, I kind of gave up reviewing the last few songs, perhaps the last album, but it was tough finding new things to say about the same stuff over and over again. I never liked it much, just my cup of tea. I know there are people who like the polite, basic background music, and this is it! When it comes down to it, I find that his music is just tedious. It is good pop, but it lacks an extra something to push it into interesting out of the normal singer songwriter genre. So that makes it very same-y and tedious.
Stand Out Tracks:


  1. Mike Lechmann6/13/08, 5:42 PM

    I have decided that you are a moron.

  2. I'm Very Very sorry that you like Marshall Crenshaw.

  3. Just been catching up.

    Marshall Crenshaw was a product of his time. This music was a reaction to the over-production of Rock at that time, and his simple music production sounded very refreshing and new at the time.

    I saw him live in Long Beach once, and thought it was a very good 3 piece poppy band, with tight harmonies.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. unfortunately, you are a moron. tin ears. crenshaw is a consummate artist and you're obviously too benighted a pop fan to hear it. it's pathetic that people like you, with your amateur ears and non-insights and total lack of feel for art, have been encouraged thru the magic of the interwebs to foist your bullshit upon unsuspecting seekers of knowledge. it's sad, man, man.

  6. I myself am the "unsuspecting seeker of knowledge" that you speak of. That is what this blog is all about: I scour through albums I know little to nothing about, I take a listen, and call it like I see it. I do not carry the heavy burden of trying to enlighten people with deep factual or historical knowledge of each subject. That is what the links are for. So I make my own judgments of the music as I listen. I think it would be more sad to expect everyone in the world to share my taste. Please send further complaints to my thesis: http://thriftstoremusic.blogspot.com/2007/12/my-musical-thesis.html