April 2001

Tom Landa and The Paperboys - Postcards
Red House Records RHR CD 150
Released: 2000

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

[Reviewed on CD]One of my favorite tracks on Postcards, the third CD by Tom Landa and The Paperboys, is "Goodbye." Up-tempo, like most of the CD, it features a full, but not noisy, arrangement. The quick bluegrass-style banjo played by Chris Quinn -- with some exciting riffs in the instrumental verse -- and solid, but unobtrusive, double bass by Victor Bateman, carry the tune rapidly along while Tom Landa sings.

"Have I done the right thing/When I start to doubt this decision I made/I remember what you said and I feel that sting/We sit around this table, like so many other times/Like co-dependent lovers not ready to let go of each other’s ties/Well I guess that this is goodbye"-- that’s the first verse. Verging on psychobabble? Yes, but not quite over the edge.

The next track, "Falling Down," provides some of the album’s most interesting rhythms and lyrics. Starting with a brief drum riff that yields to an electric-bass introduction by Marlow Holder, the tune is guided by the bass’s quick, stabbing rhythm throughout the rest of the song. "Falling Down" describes a femme fatale by means of an extended metaphor: "She’s a rusty blade, once her nasty cut’s been made/Once inside she’ll say/I always knew that this is where the darkness lay …."

Depending on your perspective, or maybe on whether you know more than President Bush’s first grade Spanish, a strength or weakness of this CD is its attempt to reflect what its publicists call "a global consciousness." I have mixed feelings about that. Three of the songs are in Spanish, and I don’t know Spanish. Maybe Landa's not all that interested in communicating with me. He also includes some reels and jigs, which I am not all that fond of either -- I greatly prefer folk music with words.

Everything on the CD is well played, but, as an old fart who values aesthetic unity, I find the strikingly eclectic nature of this collection ultimately keeps it from getting off the ground. The opening tune, "Living Proof," is one of the band’s excellent up-tempo celebrations of what used to be called love and is now "interpersonal relationships." The second track is a medley of instrumentals, and the third drags us (sorry!) into Spanish. I feel relieved each time the band jumps into a nice smooth beat and I hear Landa's clear voice start to sing the language I know best.

Maybe The Paperboys could indulge their taste for world music by creating albums devoted to specific linguistic or ethnic genres, giving their albums clearer identities. Of course, then each collection wouldn’t be communicating that we live in a "global village." So what? That message is so vague compared to the specific ones conveyed by individual songs that the world wouldn’t be missing much. On the other hand I'd bet this band gives fine concerts; you might want to catch them at a venue in your part of the village.