Review Allen Shadow
King Kong Serenade
Reprinted from:   Blue City Records By Josh Kazman

Allen Shadow's simple, prominent beats and bare-boned rhythm guitar sections create an empty palette for his poetic verses. Much like Bruce Springsteen, his music is simple and derivative; it's his lyrics that really set him apart. With cultural references ranging from the beatniks to New York City, Disneyland and a few that simply went over my head, Shadow creates poetic, situational cityscapes that draw you in with expressive imagery ("In doorways and hotel rooms / ghosts of Broadway loom") and memorable characters who are described in merely a few lines, then exit ("The lady's copper eyes grow green / in the gull-darkened dawn of the dream").

It's a shame that Shadow is never able to connect all these images and tell a broader story, but each song works quite well as a fast-paced walk along a lonely, darkened city street, with enough twists and turns to keep your interest. Within this established style, Shadow's songs remain distinct and tasteful. On each piece, we're treated to different moods in different backgrounds, varying from repressed urges on main street ("Downtown") to lonely nights in lonely places ("Crossroads of American", "Hopper's Town") to down-beat nostalgia in Coney Island ("You, Coney Island").

All the while, Shadow fills his descriptions with dark and dreamy, psychedelic-tinged images that recall songs like Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", Eric Anderson's "Violets of Dawn" and Donovan's "Sunny Goodge Street".

The quintessential example is "Sugar Street", in which the listener finds himself swirling weightlessly from great line to great line, all of them loosely connected to the titular street. For instance: "Anna's girls shall wear lace / no gutter will the widow face / the landlord's belly smells of hate / in queer prayer her mouth is shaped / in corners where angels retreat / cheap as ants on Sugar Street."

Shadow's music -- run of the mill guitar rock -- is perhaps his weakest point. There's nothing objectionable about it, but it's more than a little bit dull. A few choruses and solos shine, but the lyrics aren't well served. As with Leonard Cohen's last few albums, the music here works only insofar as it's able to exist with and highlight the lyrics.

Shadow narrates with the confidence of an old Hollywood detective who has grown sick of the scene, but still knows his city like the back of his right hand. His loose verse allows the listener to roam through his darkly intriguing creations, filling in the holes between his descriptive gaps. If you let the album grab you, King Kong Serenade has the potential to sweep you down numerous back-alleys and even through a few one-night stands.


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