Bobby Conn - Macaroni

A curious album that is well worth investigating.

Label: Fire Records

Rating: 7

Chicago’s enigmatic rock n roll showman Bobby Conn is certainly an artist that has a lot to say. Over the course of his five studio albums he’s established himself as one of rock and pop’s more interesting characters and all his flamboyance and magnetic personality, aligned to some scathing lyrics comes across wonderfully on his sixth full-length, and first since 2007’s ‘King For A Day’, ‘Macaroni’

Conn is an artist whom it is almost impossible to pin down, he perpetually flits between styles and sounds but it is this restless nature that gives his music an engaging quality, as you never quite know what you are going to get. In keeping with his previous work, this is an album that frequently confounds.

‘Macaroni’ is Conn’s take on contemporary society in America as he comments on the chaotic hyper speed world we now live in. There is a rippling anger throughout as he disparagingly references the Occupy Wall street movement and condemns the US government and its military policy; these are all weighty themes but when handled by a theatrical showman like Conn who favours exuberant flamboyance rather than straight edged seriousness it never degenerates into turgid hectoring. Both the snarky ‘Govt’ with its cries of ‘We Want Our Country Back’ and the frenetic sound of ‘Can’t Stop The War’ and ‘Greed’ all offer good examples of this records social commentary.

As always, it’s at times hard to work out if he is taking things entirely seriously. The album’s title track genuinely does seem to be an ode to Macaroni with lyrics like “When life brings you down you just want something easy, you want something, saw something cheesy” and “It’s so smooth and creamy.” Maybe this is a metaphor for something entirely different, who knows, but fortunately, the rather strange lyrics are coupled with a vibrant and exuberant glam rock sound and perhaps the album’s best chorus.

Musically ‘Macaroni’ is excellent, a glorious melting pot of sounds which go from the low slunk loping groove of ‘Face Blind’ with Conn’s striking Bee Gees style falsetto to the sublime disco strut of ‘After School’ and the new wave rock of ‘More Than You Need’ with splashes of metal, prog and electronica all mixed in. Conn and his band The Burglars bring a poised and smooth sound, however, to the album’s stylistic explorations which help to give it coherency.

A theme of the album, as well as the political content, is Conn’s observations on hipsterism, particularly critiqued with witty brilliance on the really rather bonkers ‘Underground Vctm’. Conn rails that he is “Sick of all the kids today tapping on their phones” and “Sick of all their opinions” before posing the question, “Was this a golden age or a bullshit fantasy?” In his opinion the answer is obvious. A brilliantly bratty “Na, na ,na” coda then rounds off a prime piece of observant and clever pop.

Bobby Conn is an artist who will always provoke opinions via his strong personality and his embracing of theatricality, and on ‘Macaroni’ he has harnessed those traits with a collection of short sharp pop songs, bewitching in sound and style and always lyrically interesting. A curious album that is well worth investigating.