April 21, 2004

Chris Murray "The 4-Track Adventures of Venice Shoreline Chris"

Chris Murray's an interesting fellow.

He's a one man lo-fi ska band.

Now, see, this doesn't look good on paper, does it?

I agree, the concept doesn't seem right. In fact, it seems highly improbable that it would be any good. After all, ska's not that cool, eh? And for a ska band, you need to have a large band of at least six members, right? You've gotta have a big horn section, a tight rhythm section and the ability to knock socks off. But Chris Murray messed with the formula, he decided to make a ska record on his own, and he decided to allow the song to be the center of attention. So he made a solo 'ska' record. Then he made another one. And another one.

And it was good.

No, really, this album is good. There's something magical about the whole lo-fi nature of his music, and considering he's got extremely good musical skills, it's no surprise that his one-man-band songs are excellent. The 4-Track Adventures of Venice Shoreline Chris is a reissue of his debut record, released back in 1997 on the now-defunct Moon Ska Records. It's lo-fi and it's rough, but it's wonderful.

While his sound's definitely matured (these tapes are VERY raw--Daniel Johnston cassette raw), The 4-Track Adventures Of Venice Shoreline Chris is a surprisingly fun record. The nine songs on here are pretty good; they're more of a lo-fi reggae style that's more akin to traditional ska (no Less Than Jake-style bombast here), with guitar, bass and occasional organ. From the organ grinding of "The Organizer" (witty title!) to the romantic "Bring Your Love To Me" and "Ex-Darling," his music's heartfelt and sincere in a way not heard since English Beat or the Specials. Funniest song is his response to Moon Ska's initial rejection of his demo, "Cooper Station Blues." It's a funny and poignant song that's quite convincing and makes the album worthwhile.

There's a magic to a 4-track recording, and the tape hiss that you find here and there on this album makes it even more magical. While his albums have increasingly grown better-sounding fidelity wise, these early tapes are excellent and charming and lovely in their own way. While I'd recommend his newer stuff, this is a great little record and well worth seeking out.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.chrismurray.net
Label Website: http://www.asianmanrecords.com

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