Airy, open piano chords, brushed drums and organ accents usher in John Maxfield's latest record with the cocktail-jazz instrumental "Theme to Hullabalooga," a sly hint that the album may be more ambitious than most of its rock/pop contemporaries. In a way, it is different; the album relies more on the soft edges of piano jazz. And as it does on Joe Jackson's Night & Day, this trope pairs nicely with classic pop songcraft – but only when Maxfield lets pop structures trump the jazz flourishes. At seven minutes, "I Miss Her" feels interminable, with a tenor saxophone solo droning on much longer than the lyrical portion. Likewise, the "band on the run" tale of "Back on the Bus" attempts to trade Brill Building pop for a Mothers of Invention-esque freak out, but it comes out sounding like They Might Be Giants minus the humor. Maxfield is better at the disconsolate "Total Disaster" and especially the zippy power-pop stomper "Black and Blue" – the songs give a better framework for his catchy melodies and sharp-cornered hooks.
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