Chico Harpo – He’s In The News Again (feat. Dave Keuning & Marysol Arellano)
There was something wholly innocent about Harpo Marx’s brand of comedy. Acting alongside his brothers, first in theatre productions, then on the silver screen, Harpo brought balance to the chaos in which the Marx Brothers invariably found themselves engulfed in each of their adventures. Of course, there was even greater turmoil to be found right outside of these movie productions, with the world thrust into massive military conflict, the likes of which the world had never know. It’s strange to consider that this existed at the very time that Harpo and his brothers were making their greatest pictures.
Chico Harpo, the singer whose stage name recalls the loveable silent actor, finds himself in a similar position. His work, tinged with beautiful pop writing, functions in parallel to strange, unprecedented events. Heard without the words, the single He’s In The News Again is as charming and sweet as pop music can get, with melodies that recall 1960s pop.
Listened to more closely, the single is shown to be a topical tune and as a protest song. He’s In The News Again discusses gun violence in the U.S. and the culture surrounding it. These are highly dicey topics that are both shocking and difficult to try and resolve, even in one’s own imagination. Chico Harpo, and his collaborators Dave Keuning (The Killers) & Marysol Arellano, do an excellent job on this single of echoing the growing tension without suggesting they might have all the answers of how to have these problems should be solved.
No Berlin – You’re Never Gonna See
Sure, many of rock music’s styles allow for experimentation and rule-breaking. However, to ignore the rules or simply disregard them altogether, they must first know what they are. Even great singers who went against the grain, like Frank Zappa, Diamanda Galas, or Nina Hagen, began their careers by diligently brushing up their technique.
Now, the whole point about having rules when it comes to songwriting is that when in place in just the right way, these elements achieve almost a state of grace. Take great rock n’ roll singles from the 1950s. Many of those are perfect, albeit simple in their construction. There is absolutely nothing that can be added to those tunes to improve them.
In many ways, I feel the same way by No Berlin and the single You’re Never Gonna See. It would have taken very little for this to be an ordinary indie-pop song. However, at the top of the singer’s range, the great vocals, and the melodies, a distillation of the very best of 60s rock, make this single just about irresistible. It follows all the rules, but in executing all of the basic elements perfectly, it shines.