Thursday , May 23 2024
Concrete Jangle

Music Review: ‘The Concrete Jangle’ from Steve Conte

Concrete Jangle

Steve Conte has just released The Concrete Jangle, on Wicked Cool Records, and as its title suggests the album is a wonderful mix of gritty rock and melodic pop. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Conte co-wrote the first five songs on the disc with Andy Partridge of XTC, the great British power pop band of the late 1970s and 1980s.

On his previous releases Conte has proven to be a keen observer of the human condition, specifically the New York City species, and on Concrete Jangle he continues delving into that subject. However, and perhaps this is because of Partridge’s outside influence, the songs on this album all seem to be a little more universal in their focus. That’s not to imply Conte’s work has been limited in the past, merely that he continues to grow as a songwriter and expand his horizons.

As befitting someone who has played with everyone from Robert Gordon to the New York Dolls, Conte is one of those musicians who can easily move from genre to genre without any effort and without losing an iota of sincerity. Each song on this album is a carefully crafted and superbly performed piece of pop alchemy that will have you singing along even without knowing the lyrics.

From the album’s tongue-in-cheek opening “Fourth of July,” where Conte and Partridge use American military and patriotic themes as metaphors for a relationship, to “One Last Bell”‘s beautifully haunting hope for a better world, their collaborations redefine the boundaries of a pop song’s subject matter. They are listening to what’s going on around them and echoing those sounds back to us in music and lyrics.

Conte’s talents as a songwriter have always been impressive, but on Concrete Jangle his material has evolved. While there are still wonderful tips of the hat to his rock sensibilities, “Motor City Love Machine” is a tribute to all the great bands who came out of Detroit, while “I’m Decomposing You” is a meticulously produced reverse love song reminiscent of any number of George Martin-produced Beatles tracks from the Revolver era on. 

This is not to say Conte is imitating anyone, as he puts his own unique touch on everything. However he is taking all his influences and incorporating them into his creations. Conte is nothing if not a student of popular music. Like a sponge he has absorbed everything he’s ever listened to, and with Concrete Jangle he’s synthesized all of it into his own sound. 

The Concrete Jangle from Steve Conte, with an assist from Andy Partridge, is pure listening pleasure. Smart, witty, empathic, and fun, it can’t help but bring a smile to your face – and even better, bring a thought to your brain.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to Qantara.de and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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