Review: Manda Mosher – City of Clowns – (Red Parlor Records)
by Jim Simpson
We wish Manda Mosher had run the title of her EP by us first. We might have said: “City of Clowns? Really? You sure? Clowns are scary. Even kids hate clowns. Remember Pennywise from Stephen King’s It? John Wayne Gacy? The Joker? That cult film Killer Clowns from Outer Space?”
Mosher’s five-song follow-up to her debut full length Everything You Need, begins with the title track, which sounds like the opening sequence to an HBO original series: Backbeat drums, mysterious and shimmery electric guitars provide the intro to a song about the nature of fame and those who strive for it in Los Angeles. It’s a love/hate stance that Mosher takes — she grew up in nearby La Crescenta –as she bemoans the transient and shallow nature of LA’s star-seeking residents while recognizing the town’s endless opportunities.
The backing musicians provide a polished and sufficiently moody atmosphere, but the sing-song lyrics on “City of Clowns” are almost laughable. Sounding like a female Tom Petty (and that’s not a bad thing) Mosher sings, “Get your big clown shoes and your big clown nose/Your big clown feet and your big clown clothes” and head on down to the city of clowns where you can hide your frown. Woah, that’s deep.
Mosher redeems herself on the next tracks, “The Only One”, (“Take my body, take my soul/Just don’t take my heart to give away”) and a cover of Springsteen’s “State Trooper”, the longest song on the offering and on which Ido Sasson and Larry Saltzman provide mesmerizing electric and slide guitar, respectively, and Jerry Krenach lays down some gritty and soulful piano.
“Lay Me Down” is a mildly interesting rocker about hypnotic obsession, while “One True Love” is an endlessly sunny and anachronistic toe-tapper.
The CD includes a behind-the-scenes video, “Manda Mosher/In The Studio” filmed at The Loft Recording Studio, Bronxville, NY. Odd, too, that an effort whose title track is about LA was recorded equally in Bronxville, NY and in Encino, CA. Maybe geographical distancing seemed like a good idea.
While Mosher has assembled a talented group of musicians, City of Clowns sounds a bit slapdash and hurried, like a good first draft. And why release only three new original songs (“Lay Me Down” is a remix) so soon? Puzzling. Mosher’s vocals, while pleasant, seem a bit too restrained at some points, lacking emotional depth. We hope she takes a bit more time on her next release and hangs it all on a less frightening title.