Fat Possum made a name for itself by releasing a slew of raw, stripped-down blues records from the likes of T-Model Ford, Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. Funny, then, that the label should have a hand in releasing Bloodsongs, the debut album from Gil Mantera’s Party Dream. It could be argued that Gil Mantera’s Party Dream — two scantily clad men from Youngstown, Ohio who pump out irony-laden dance-rock anthems — is the polar opposite of the blues. Whereas brothers Gil Mantera and Ultimate Donny have their tongues firmly in cheek, the label’s bluesmen always seemed to have their foot in somebody’s ass (when they weren’t dying, that is).
But, hey, who knows? Maybe a better cultural critic than me could explain why the Party Dream’s plastic hedonism is actually a heartfelt expression on the pervasive loneliness and alienation of modern American culture, and, therefore, a direct descendant of the blues. Yeah, maybe.
If you’ve heard of Gil Mantera’s Party Dream before, it was almost certainly through one of its live shows. The boys tour relentlessly and have built up a name for themselves as a truly fun live act, an hour-long orgy of alcohol-fueled mayhem. The show is equal parts dance party and stand-up routine, as the two assume the guise of Midwestern yokels and wax profane on just about everything around them. Then the clothes come off, and pretty soon the audience is going nuts for over-the-top anthems about water slides (“Bunz Therapy”) and the alienating effects of 21st century technology (“Shadow Grip”).
Which makes Bloodsongs a bit of an afterthought. Without the visual spectacle of the live show, the songs lack context and exist in a strange sort of sonic purgatory — too jokey to be taken seriously, too serious to be looked at as pure comedy.
Don’t get me wrong: These guys can write good songs, with soaring hooks (check out opener “Buffalo Tears”), pulsating rhythms (check out everything), and just enough earnestness that the entire enterprise can’t be written off as a joke. But are many people going to buy it? Probably not.
Essentially, what Gil Mantera’s Party Dream has done is create such a convincing live persona that anything the members put to disc will come across as incomplete and unsatisfying. Now that’s something to write a blues song about.
“Elmo’s Wish” video