An expanded reissue of the late rocker’s ’95 opus, A Man Called Destruction, underscores something that most people don’t talk about: When the mood struck him, Alex Chilton could be a lot of fun, period. (Photo: Pat Rainer)
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
It’s easy to let yourself be disappointed by an Alex Chilton record. But that’s only if you insist that he re-make Sister Lovers or Radio City over and over again. Let such notions go, and his post-Big Star solo work becomes much more enjoyable. Especially when you consider that Chilton wasn’t abandoning his best-known work – he was merely returning to his roots, indulging in the R&B-based sounds that ignited his passion to play music in the first place.
Originally released in 1995 and now reissued by Omnivore as an expanded edition, A Man Called Destruction is Chilton’s fourth solo album following his mid-‘80s resurrection, and it’s a corker. Half originals and half covers, the set list includes, as expected, 60s-style R&B (Chris Kenner’s “Sick and Tired”), rawboned rock & roll (“Devil Girl,” “Don’t Stop,” “You’re Lookin’ Good”), smooth blues (“Don’t Know Anymore,” Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have to Go”), something Beach Boys related (Jan and Dean’s “New Girl in School,” co-written by Brian Wilson) and winsome pop (Danny Pearson’s “What’s Your Sign Girl”).
But he also threw some typically Chiltonian curve balls: the jazzy rock instrumental “Boplexity,” the phonetically-sung Italian rockabilly number “Il Ribelle” (originally sung by Adriano Celentano), the half-serious/half ridiculous classically-styled instrumental “It’s Your Funeral” (quoting the familiar Chopin dirge). Recorded live on the floor without EQ, the songs all have a dry clarity, with no layers between performance and ear; combined with Chilton’s clear enjoyment in making the music, it makes every track come gloriously alive.
This edition includes a slew of strong bonus cuts, wherein even the repeats are worth hearing. Though the alternative version of “Devil Girl” notes “double-track vocal,” the real difference is in the slowed-down tempo and bluesier feel. (Listen to it below.) “You’re My Favorite,” while sounding slightly unfinished, rollicks nicely along, while “Please Pass Me My Walkin’ Shoes” rides a greasy blues groove home. Even a cover of John Addison’s “Why Should I Care,” while clearly more of a rough sketch than a song, gets by on easy charm.
It also underscores the chief asset of A Man Called Destruction: it’s just fun. Chilton sounds like he’s smiling through most of the songs, and with that energy behind them, you can’t help but smile as well.
Below, view the official Omnivore trailer for the album. And a big thank-you from the BLURT crew to everyone – from Omnivore and music publicist Cary Baker of Conqueroo, to Chris Stamey and author Holly George-Warren – involved in continuing to fly the flags of Chilton, Chris Bell, and the entire Big Star extended family. – Ed.