158

Eric Hofbauer: American Vanity

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Eric Hofbauer: American Vanity Even only a partially successful experiment deserves credit. Guitarist Eric Hofbauer, recently reviewed as a member of The Blueprint Project , has the guts to put out his first album as a leader as (a) a solo guitar record, (b) a concept album, and (c) an exploration of the concept of pride in American culture. By blending free-style improvisations with songs that have in some cases become part of the American gestalt, Hofbauer has fashioned a record that attempts to get at the nub of American popular culture, American hubris and the concept of conformity in the American collective subconscious.

Lofty ambitions? Unquestionably, and American Vanity only succeeds in part at creating an integrated whole that articulates a shared experience. But that being said, kudos to Hofbauer for having some vanity of his own to try reaching into the listener's life experience, making a statement that may not be completely cogent, but clearly articulates one man's view in a unique and clever fashion.

Stylistically Hofbauer owes a great deal to Derek Bailey and guitarists who have come from that space, including Marc Ducret and at times Marc Ribot. His acoustic guitar tone is thin, and he plays with a percussive style that has some of the quirkiness of Bill Frisell's earlier work without the more lyrical disposition that has always made Frisell so approachable. He uses prepared techniques to create unusual textures, as on "New Coke (part 1)," where it sounds as though he has attached something to the strings to give his already percussive style even more impact. His version of the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" uses a slide to create a skewed look at this cult tune.

Hofbauer may, however, be a little too clever for his own good. By combining "Greensleeves" and "Moonlight in Vermont" into "Greensleeves in Vermont," and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and "Little Drummer Boy" into "Ode to Little Drummer Boy," Hofbauer demonstrates a warped sense of lateral thinking. By performing two tunes essentially at once in both cases, he creates a feeling of unease that retains its satire and sense of the absurd. Equally outrageous is his version of Erik Satie's "Gnoissienne #1," where he manages to secure the melodic beauty of the piece, while at the same time forwarding a more abstruse rhythmic and harmonic sensibility. But the question at the end of all this is: does it work, and is it something one would return to listen to time and again?

The answer is a somewhat conditional yes. Clearly a challenging record, American Vanity demands complete attention at all times. But while there is a certain academic wit, it fails for the most part to touch the soul. It makes its points, but in the final analysis comes across as more of an interesting concept that almost makes it rather than something to return to for repeated listens.


Track Listing: The Fad; Coke (for Our Addicts); Gnossienne #1; Mandrake; American Eulogy; Better Get Hit In Your Soul; Ba-Dee Image; Greensleeves In Vermont; Ode To Little Drummer Joy; $...(Part 1); Old Man River (For Our Lost Ones); New Coke (Part 1); Driftin' On A Reed (For Our Dreamers); American Innocence; $...(Part 2); Dukes Of Hazzard; Take On Me; Femme Fatale; New Coke (Part 2); Display Window Strut

Personnel: Eric Hofbauer (guitar)

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Creative Nation Music | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read The Invariant CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Got A Mind to Give Up Living: Live 1966" CD/LP/Track Review Got A Mind to Give Up Living: Live 1966
by Doug Collette
Published: June 11, 2016
Read "Live At the Stone" CD/LP/Track Review Live At the Stone
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 29, 2016
Read "Tracé Provisoire" CD/LP/Track Review Tracé Provisoire
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 10, 2016
Read "The Havana Sessions" CD/LP/Track Review The Havana Sessions
by James Nadal
Published: June 11, 2016
Read "Bambulaye" CD/LP/Track Review Bambulaye
by James Nadal
Published: March 10, 2016
Read "Still Happy" CD/LP/Track Review Still Happy
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: July 11, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!