With many artists, you see the name and you know exactly what you are going to be getting. But who needs predictability in the modern musical world? Surely it is better to keep them guessing and deliver what you know the listener needs, rather than what they think they want. It’s not about them, is it? After all, what do they know? Thankfully, even after being aware of J Crist for only a short period of time, I already look forward to exploring any new music that he is involved in, not because I know what he is going to sound like, but precisely because I don’t. It feels like a more healthy state of affairs to me; more creative, more forward-thinking, and more productive.
Not that Beat Out is new, it’s just new to the listener at large. In fact, its roots go back a long way. Giuseppe Cristiano ( aka. J Crist) and Emilio Di Donato knew each other growing up as boys, shared the same interests, managed to record some music together, (ie. this album) and then spent years wandering the world along different paths. In the pre-internet age, releasing the album seemed like an insurmountable challenge and so it sat in a drawer for thirty-plus years.
Finally, a few years ago, the time was right, logistically, technically and financially for the album to see the light of day and as I am, as always, late to the party, I have only just discovered it. But better late than never as they say, right?
Beat Out feels as if somewhere along the line the artists behind it have broken into my house, stolen a random bunch of my old vinyl records and made an album with me in mind. The influence and attitudes behind the album seem so catered to my tastes that it is hard to think otherwise. (Note to self: change the locks…then again if this is going to be the result of such sympathetic burglary, perhaps not.) Beat Out is a pop album, for sure, but a left-field one, in the same way that (my hometown heroes) XTC is pop, that Talking Heads is pop, that the transitional late seventies Genesis is pop. Alt-pop? Pop with attitude? Music that falls between pop and a hard place? Call it what you will, or just call it great music, for that is what it is.
The title track has that funky, slightly African, disco-groove that really put Talking Heads on the map, in fact, that heady brew of afro-beat, world flavours, funk ‘n’ roll and experimental pop runs through the whole album to some degree. Marry Me ‘Til I’m Alive is Latin-infused, off-beat and oddly brilliant, T (Your Eyes) is wandering, full of on-off dynamic switches, guitar noodling and new wave energy and Straightforwardness is charming and chiming. The latter also reminding me of Reuben’s Daughters, a band who should, if the internet algorithms are worth anything, will be high up on the “if you like that you’ll like this” suggestions.
If you like any of the bands mentioned, check this out, also add the likes of Anton Barbeau‘s quirky power pop, Robin Hitchcock’s pop machinations and Eno’s less whispy and washed out creations. Fans of alt-pop, those looking for something truly new and different should also sign on.Those embracing the post-genre, non-tribal musical world plus those discerning pop pickers simply looking for something new, different, accessible, forward-thinking and unique too. In fact, I can’t really think of anyone who shouldn’t give this a spin. Nope, not one.