By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Oy, that name. Who wants to profess, "Dude, I've been bumpin' that Toy Gun Cowboy joint nonstop lately"? Certainly not I.
But let's first examine whether Toy Gun Cowboy's Big Bluealbum (Gutter Groove Records) is worth the embarrassment the project handle will cause you. TGC is Lakewood producer Matthew Erickson, a studio savant who oozes catchy hooks the way beer drinkers emit halitosis. He makes crafting memorable melodies seem as effortless as letting a magazine subscription lapse. Erickson displays a Beck-like facility with pop and rock's atomic structure, which results in songs that exude familiarity without derivativeness. Achieving this requires above-average skill.
Big Blue is a concept album arising from Erickson hearing about a JetBlue plane with bunk landing gear (for maximum effect, you're instructed to listen to the disc in reverse order). This scenario led him to compose a work depicting humanity's journey from the Garden of Eden to the souls gathered on that mechanically compromised jet floundering over Southern California. "As I watched the plane flying by my house," Erickson notes in press materials, "it made me think about all the people onboard of different races, faiths and backgrounds. They were probably reflecting on their lives and praying to their different deities. So I wrote these songs with that in mind, except that I thought about the life history of the human race."
The music for this lofty subject isn't heavy at all; rather, it's an accessible collection of crafty one-man-bandisms, à la Beck and eels: sometimes funky, sometimes bluesy, sometimes psychedelic, sometimes abrasive, sometimes Brian Wilson-y, always hummable. Overall, it's worth the cringing the name Toy Gun Cowboy will induce in most adults.
Note: Two Toy Gun Cowboy tracks will appear in the documentary Primer, which depicts the downtown Santa Ana art and music scenes. For more information, visit www.akorn.tv/primer and www.toyguncowboy.com.
Attention Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, along with your vital contact info and a decent high-resolution photo (plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only,OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana CA 92701. Or just be lazy and e-mail your MySpace link to firstname.lastname@example.org.