BY FRED MILLS
San Fran rocker Sean O’Brien has been on the scene long enough to perfect his craft, having cut his teeth with the so-called “paisley underground” (notably as a member of the Davis, Calif., legends True West) and collaborated with a host of likeminded vets. His current touring band includes Camper Van Beethoven’s Greg Lisher, while the new Risk Profile album features Matt Boudreau on drums, Tom Hofer on bass and such guests as Lisher and musicians from Four Non Blondes, Engine 88 and Penelope Houston’s band. This spells a recipe in confidence and finesse, with O’Brien stepping decisively up to the songwriting plate.
He swings for the fences right away with “Rehabilitated (I Want You),” all angular guitars and edgy rhythms. Then in rapid succession he essays woozy psychedelia (“Final Say”), jangly pop (“How I Hate That Hand”), and choogling rock (“I Can’t Say No”). There are also moments of expansive, atmospheric cinema, such as the brooding “Torn Down & Hauled Away,” which is complemented by the smokey, piano-based lounge-jazz of “The Addict Demands.” And with an unexpected foray into electronica called, teasingly “The Sugar Will Do You In” near the end the album ultimately comes across as one of the most delightfully diverse — schizoid, even — releases to date this year. It’s almost as if O’Brien had so much he wanted to say in the relatively short space of a lone album, he decided to make the most of his forum and get a little bit of everything on the table.
That may mean that some newcomers to O’Brien’s music will be confused, but patience and repeated listens will pay off, in spades. And for those of us who have followed him over the years, the musical buffet is the kind of sonic nourishment we can cherish. More, please.
DOWNLOAD: “The Sugar Will Do You In,” “Torn Down & Hauled Away,” “How I Hate That Hand”