A review can serve many purposes and take many forms. Some are great entertainment, some educate, others are analytical and filled with attempts and objective judgment. Some reviews manage all of the above. Regardless of the approach taken, the goal should be to serve the reader; an idea lost on some critics who get caught up in their own brand of snarky brilliance and elitism.
I try to remind myself of what I look for in the reviews I read when I'm writing one. When I first started, I used to assign grades to the records. I thought it served a purpose and I'd seen many other sites and magazines do it so I emulated it. I don't do that any more. One reason is because I noticed two albums could each receive the same grade and still feel leagues different, even when the grades both came from me.
Another reason I stopped is because I'd read someone's review and look at the grade and find the two incongruous. I'd be stunned to see an album marked down because this particular writer didn't like things about it I knew I'd love, or because the things they liked about it would drive me nuts. I remember when I interviewed Peter Karp he said some critics thought Shadows & Cracks was too wordy. That seemed to me to be the equivalent of telling Bob Dylan to shut up or Mozart to put down the Stradivarius. What the fuck is that all about? The grade doesn't matter and it doesn't serve the reader.
That brings us (finally) to the latest record from Popa Chubby, Deliveries After Dark. Even if I still assigned grades or stars to records, I'm not sure I'd be able to with this one. It's not easy to write about a record that doesn't illicit strong feelings favorably or unfavorably. I like Deliveries but I don't love it. Even after listening to it for awhile, I still feel a little unresolved (much like I did when I reviewed Tuatara's West of the Moon). Rather than forcing the conclusions before I'm ready, here are a few things I like about Deliveries and a few things I didn't.
The guitar playing, obviously! The guy never seems to run out of licks. If you enjoy blues-based guitar, you're going to hear something you like on this record.
The feel of the record is also really attractive and intoxicating. This is a fun blues-rock record. This isn't filled with tortured wailing and there are no hellhounds on PC's trail (not that there's anything wrong with those kinds of blues records; far from it). This is the kind of album you crank on a Friday or Saturday night when you have some friends over to hoist a few drinks and play some cards. This is good time rock-n-blues.
Deliveries After Dark is also defiantly not a purist record. This is a blues rock record that has the sound and songs of classic rock radio rather than Beale Street or Michigan Avenue. Hell, there's even a surfer take on the famous theme from The Godfather! This isn't rigid, by-the-numbers music made by an artist insisting on living within the confines of genre. This is bold, loud music made for the joy of it and it can be heard in every note.
The production. I'm probably more of a fuddy duddy about the way records sound than some listeners (while admittedly not having the knowledge to be a full-on audiophile), but there's something that just sounds noticeably "off" on this record. The cymbals are irritating to the ear and there seems to be a persistent fuzzed distortion that aggravates over the course of the record.
The length. Clocking in at 13 songs and 67 minutes, the album seems to overstay its welcome just a little bit. There aren't any awful songs on the record so I can't tell you exactly what should have been cut, but after listening to it from beginning to end I found myself a little fatigued by it. Song lengths range from three to eight minutes, but there are probably a few too many songs that stretch out further than they should.
When I weigh it all out, the good things about this record outweigh the bad, but this isn't an album that is recommended for all listeners. I like it. People who like their blues fast and fun will have a blast cranking this and I'm willing to bet these songs will have even more life live than they do on record.