Monday, June 4, 2012

Royal Crown Revue - Kings of Gangster Bop

As I was listening to this album, I finally put my finger on what bothered me about the rebirth of swing jazz in the 90's. It's not that the musicians weren't talented or that the songs weren't good. It's just a certain inauthentic view of a bygone era that bugs me.

I started buying swing jazz albums in the 90's because I really liked this girl who was really into swing dancing. I got the music so she could teach me the steps and I could spend a good amount of time with my hands on her hips. It's exactly the kind of ploy guys are constantly guilty of, but if we knew a better way to get girls, we woulda done it. Oh, and none of us believe that "just be yourself" business. We've been ourselves and we've been lonely as ourselves and we're done with it (says the guy who is happily married to a woman who loves him for who he is). Anyway, my fondness for a certain young lady allowed me to turn a blind eye to the thing that really bothers me about the 90's swing jazz revival.

Look at the title of this album: Kings of Gangster Bop. You get the feeling that the guys making this sort of music thought that every guy who listened to "Minnie the Moocher" in the 30's was a mobster and that being in the mob was all fun and games and nobody got hurt. The song "Zip Gun Bop" is a perfect example of what I mean. It's an idealized view of jazz and of the mafia. The era they're trying to recreate never existed in the way they envision it. It's every bit as maddening as the current generation's attempt to recreate the 80's (look at their stretchpants, brightly-colored oversized plastic jewelry and heavily synthesized music and try to tell me it's not a bad version of the 80's).

Kings of Ganster Bop is a perfectly fine album, even if it does come off as very inauthentic. There is a very nice version of "Stormy Weather" on the album, but the rest of the album is a bunch of well-intentioned yet inauthentic yearnings for a stylized version of a bygone era. You're better off with Benny Goodman or Cab Calloway, but this album isn't necessarily bad.

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