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Richard Cheese
I’d Like A Virgin


f 2004 is to leave any permanent stain on the collective musical consciousness, then the zombiefication of lounge must be it. Nary six months into the year, and we’ve already had Jamie Cullum bothering the top-end of the charts, Michael Buble as the new Harry Connick Jr, Harry Connick Jr as the old Michael Buble, and Norah Jones keeping the flame lit for the torch song side of things. You can crit-wank over your crunk and disco-punk for as long as you want, but it’s those who see themselves in lineage with Frank, Dean, Sammy, Andy and Tony that are shifting the significant sales figures worldwide.

Now, this would be all well and good, if it wasn’t for the fact that Jamie, Michael, Harry et al are totally shit, pale Xeroxes of the classic lounge line up, all of the content with none of the style. What made lounge, and the Rat Pack specifically, was the adoption and adaptation of the mindset that would later shine through in the best hip-hop: the medium is the message, the musician is the song. Thus those with the personalities are those who win: Sinatra schmoozed presidents and capos, Martin boned Monroe and hookers, and Davis Jr joined the Church of Satan. Andy Williams did none of these things, and neither are the new school. They’ve genetically engineered a lounge with no fun, no wit, all of the intellect with none of the intelligence.

This is about where Mark Davis, aka Richard Cheese, steps in. For the past four years, this former stand-up comedian and Nickelodeon voice-over artiste has been producing albums and live shows packed with that guiltiest of pleasures: the novelty cover. One could claim that Jamie Cullum’s fist-rapings of “Frontin’” and “High and Dry” cover this area sufficiently well, but Cheese manages to pair these Live at Sands takes on alt.rock and hip-hop nouveau standards with two things that separate and venerate the man. Firstly, the aforementioned wit (maybe too much of it at times, more on that later), and, secondly, an actual passion for lounge music itself. The best of his reinventions show him to be a man that actually has knowledge of the genre and its traits, one that should suitably shame any of these new school crooners to a man. As a prime example, one can look at his last album, Tuxicity, featuring his probable finest moment to date, a take on Disturbed’s “Down With The Sickness”, that reinterprets it as something fit for a Sinatra comeback show, a song where you can verily hear the showgirls high-kick.

He performs similar alchemy here. Standout track of the album/career is his go-through of Blink 182’s “Feelin’ This”; remade as a 1950s studio romantic drama soundtrack, elevator stylings, light as helium. It’s a fine example of one of the two things Cheese does best: stripping away whatever was standing in the way of the original track achieving its full greatness (i.e., Travis Barker).

The other thing he does quite well is rescuing songs from the dead. In particular, the CPR he performs on Jet’s craptastic “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”, making it over as one of those new-wave vocal jazz tunes beloved by comedown DJs is a near miracle. Elsewhere, “Gin and Juice” becomes “Girls Watch The Boys” V2.0, “Personal Jesus” swings like Billie Jean King, and adding a children’s choir to “Beat It” is some sort of deified sickness.

It doesn’t always work, though. In particular, Coldplay’s “Yellow” is far too wispy to sustain any sort of genre revamp, and run throughs of “Milkshake” and “99 Luftballons” just seem like a gimmick too far.

And really, the overall negative here is that Cheese obviously sees himself as a comedian rather than a musician. That’s why the album has more skits on it then the average Redman full-length, seven from 23 to be precise, and two of them revolve around him groping audience members, whilst another double feature Dick Clark and Carson Daly turning up and attempting to make with the laugh-laugh. It’s a shame, because if he’d just realised he’s all stocked up on wacky and sold it someplace else one or two times on this album, what he’d have is a funny, engaging, and, more importantly, musically valid covers album, with an equal number of salutes and middle-fingers to the songwriters of our day. As it stands, he’s hiding behind the irony defence. And if there’s one thing Frank didn’t do, it’s smirk.

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino

Reviewed on: 2004-06-15

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