Review: Patrolled By Radar – Be Happy (Knitting Factory, 2011)
Patrolled by Radar is a long-running Southern California quintet, previously known as 50 Cent Haircut, and led by singer/songwriter Jay Souza. Their music mixes country, folk, blues, psych, pub rock and post-punk. Souza’s singing occasionally suggests a rustic, nasal incarnation of the Bongos’ Richard Barone, but he also brings to mind the promenading music hall soul of Ray Davies on the horn-lined “Pachyderm,” and a polished, yet equally disturbing version of Holly Golightly’s blues on “Widow Next Door.” Souza’s lyrics are more poem than narrative, leaving behind impressions and images rather than story arcs. You’ll find yourself singing “my skull was cracked / like a cathedral dome,” but you may not know why. More easily digested are the teary loss of “Coat of Disappointment,” the alcoholic’s spiral of “Fast Life, Slow Death,” and a soldier’s consideration of his circumstances in “Carried Away.” The songs are often dressed in catchy melodies and clever word play that initially obsure the lyrics’ underlying darkness, but the contrast makes this both immediately accessible and grist for deeper consideration.