Simone Cristicchi
Fabbricante di Canzoni
BMG Ariola
2005
A



where most artists need to wheel in the guest DJ, the guest rapper or the string section to diversify and introduce variety, Simone Cristicchi seems to conjure both of those things from almost nothing, managing to tackle folk, rap, swing, AM radio, radio pop, and even the odd not-awful ballad with giddy, gleeful abandon to make one of the most diverse and engaging debut albums in recent memory. And he does this largely with a guitar and an accordion, a sign of inventiveness, if not quite genius.

Every word is in Italian, but you shouldn't let that put you off. If you like your pop albums to change every three minutes, other than continually dishing out the hooks throughout, Simone delivers. Any description of exactly what he does on this album sells him short, or makes him sound like a European version of Jason Mraz (but less annoying), but handy labels simply don’t accurately represent how impressive it is to hear such a broad album in style that nonetheless sounds like the work of one person.

Much of this must come from Simone’s charisma as a performer. First single "Vorrei Cantare Come Biagio" is a sarcastic delight, in which Simone details the way he wishes he were like Italian pop star Biagio Antonacci. He does this by making an Italian noughties version of "Lucas With The Lid Off." In case you don’t get the joke, that being that the lyrics detailing the various things he’d like to do in the manner of his object of envy, he bursts into a delicious parody of Biagio Antonacci in the middle-eight, over-singing for just a moment before drumming the titular hook into your head until you can’t resist. The second single, "Studentessa Universitaria" may even be better, a wordy portrait of depressed students generally being miserable. Moping isn't new, nor are sad narratives, but Simone infuses his words with a warmth and affection that make you unsure if he's mocking or admiring. Even the melody, which is sweet but rueful, but if sped up would be a bubblegum rave-up, doesn’t clue you in sufficiently.

You might not be able to appreciate the songs on a lyrical level, but freed from such constraints, it's easy to love this album for the euphony of the Italian tongue’s amazing capacity for rhyme, alliteration and assonance as much as for the way Simone uses his voice—interesting but not virtuosic—to create a staggering away of moods. The two singles sound nothing like each other, and they're but the tip of the iceberg. "Senza" and "La Filastrocca Della Morlacca" should delight all five of you who devoured the Caparezza album from last year, the former for its woozy strut, and the latter for its myriad silly voices—think "Fuori Dal Tunnel" for your closest reference point—backing tracks that sound like being drunk at a carnival and hooks piled five deep upon each other.

The gentle, gorgeous folk pop "Angelo Custode" could almost be Nickel Creek if you ignored the language. "A Samba" is in fact an actual samba, the most rhythmically adventurous song but packs in a brief, punchy chorus. “Stupidowski” has a touch of 90s alterna-pop about the vocal mixing, a mindless, infectious “la la la” chorus, some almost breakbeat-like stutter-stops in the middle and generally packs more ideas into its three minutes than many bands have over the course of a career. Even more dense is the title track; melding easy-listening, nu-swing and thrash in three minutes with a bizarre, incongruous phone call overlaid on top, and it works. No, it more than works. It's fiendishly, ear-dominatingly addictive.

Best of all is "Ombrelloni," a pop pastiche of the most danceable variety, almost a homage to the power-pop of the late 60s—think The Monkees, with a crowd-chanted middle eight and some, well, groovy guitars underneath it. Placed just after the half-time interlude, it comes in at just the right time to remind the listener that beyond being bamboozled by the array of styles, in essence, this is an album to put on and be stupidly happy to while absorbing its layers.

Mediocre pop from around the world finds easy purchase in the Italian charts—even Jentina appears to have some kind of career there. If there were justice, this sublime, original pop would transcend language and tear up charts all around the world. That it won’t is the world’s loss; Simone Cristicchi is an astonishing talent whose progress will be interesting and entertaining to behold if the consistent quality of Fabbricante di Canzoni is anything to go by.

STYLUSMAGAZINE.COM'S ALBUM OF THE WEEK: OCTOBER 10 - OCTOBER 16, 2005


Reviewed by: Edward Oculicz
Reviewed on: 2005-10-10
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