Singer-songwriter Eamon Ra, in his bookish spectacles and hat, might remind you of Marshall Crenshaw, who might have reminded you of Elvis Costello, who might have reminded you of Buddy Holly. After albums with the Seattle bands Truly and The Sterling Loons, Ra (whose real name is Eamon Nordquist) has released his first solo album called Meat Bones Chemicals Electricity. It’s a strange but charming LP, full of neat little touches that we used to see thirty or forty years ago.
There are nine brief pop songs here, most of them between two and three minutes in length–think of Costello’s Get Happy sliced in half. The production is pretty lo-fi, and I had to really crank up the volume knob to get a semblance of beat in my listening room. It’s like finding an old album in a thrift store and when you take it home it’s really quiet because the grooves are wearing out. In fact, Eamon Ra really reminds me of Emmit Rhodes with that earnest and polite delivery, and my copy of Rhodes’ eponymous 1970 album just happens to be woefully worn out. There’s a lot of peripheral eccentricity with MBCE, and I wonder if it’s truly needed. These songs are really, really good and stand out on their own.
Perhaps Eamon Ra has already figured out that rock and pop history is full of really talented singer-songwriters, capable of really accomplished lyrics and musical ideas, who are largely forgotten. (Just the other day I brought up Squeeze to a group of music-loving friends, and no one knew who they were!) Perhaps he’s being very ambitious here and actually creating an album that sounds like you found it in a used record store, well-loved by someone for decades and yet tossed aside in the digital era. You know, like my copy of Emitt Rhodes. If that’s the key to Meat Bones Chemicals Electricity, if that’s the calling card Eamon Ra has decided to thrust upon the world, then I get it. In a perfect world, we’d just recognize another brilliant pop/rock songwriter and give him his due and make him famous.
There’s one more novel concept to Eamon Ra and his debut album. You can purchase the lyric booklet, which is printed on heavy stock and packaged as a comic book, for an extra $10. (You can buy the LP and the booklet together for $25.) It’s full of Eamon Ra’s art, which is just as charming as his music. Again, that sounds like something someone once did decades ago, but I can’t remember who. And that’s Eamon Ra in a nutshell, taking you back to a place where you think you’ve been before, but you’re not quite sure.