Jonathan Rado – Law And Order

Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado has opted to branch out with a solo album, and in the process succeeds in exposing what a very diverse and layered songwriter / artist he is – a colourful dreamer with a tie-dye pallette.

Law and Order can be commended for what it brings to the table – grand and glamorous songs born out of achingly simple ideas, foraying into decades past and returning with delightful remnants of the Kinks and T-Rex amongst others.

Starting with the cool electric sounds of ‘Seven Horses’, the album takes a strange twist into ‘Hand in Mine’, which actually also acts as one of the real high points of the album; a sweet and humble track about the simple but powerful act of holding hands, soaring gloriously above the twerking wankery of Miley Cyrus and her greasy mate Mr Thicke. Questions could be raised about the strength of Rado’s voice, but it is just about made up for by the song itself which ambles along with the infinite charm and character of an old rogue.

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From there the album buzzes around all over the place; the shrill and brooding sounds of ‘Looking 4a Girl Like U’ bear no remote resemblance to what follows – a kinky little 60s swing instrumental called ‘Dance Away Your Ego’ which jives along in the background while you swan around the sexy party you’re having in your art deco bachelor pad. Groovy baby.

It’s tracks like ‘Hand in Mine’ and ‘Dance Away Your Ego’ that probably embody what is excellent about this album – it is brimming with surprises. If it were a novel it would have a plot twist in every paragraph.

The album sort of levels out for a while, and serves up three tracks that feel like the kind of thing Rado would opt for if he had to make an album of consistent sounds. ‘Faces’ travels peacefully in the same vein of the La’s or the Byrds, even Jonathan Richman’s the Modern Lovers. This is the same with the next track ‘Oh, Suzanna’.

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Rado still has time for some more twists; sprinting in the other direction towards ‘I Wanna Feel it Now!!!’ The exclamation marks maybe going some way towards explaining the explosive nature of the song.

If you had to criticise Law & Order, you could argue that the changes in sound end up being quite exhausting; the album changes direction so regularly and quickly it feels like the musical equivalent of the beep test. This is, however, not always a terrible thing; it keeps you on your toes and makes the act of listening through from start to finish something you are more likely to remember in, say, a years time. And in today’s musical environment, with its shuffled playlists and varied listening habits, disliking the unpredictability of a collection of songs is probably obsolete.

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Overall, the album is a testament to Rado’s songwriting capability and the fact that he is brave enough to take an album in any direction he feels like. With some particularly excellent tracks throughout, it’s a more than worthy purchase.

Ryan McMurtry

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