Tin Pan Alley will never die. It just gets reincarnated, and the extant Dalai Lama of the two-minute ditty is (and has been for two decades) Stephen Merritt.
For those of you who know him best as the 69 Love Songs-mith with his primary project The Magnetic Fields, Partygoing will come as another hit from the same highball glass, complete with punning lyrics, wry sadness and dinky keyboard action. The record is true to its title, as Merritt and co-vocalist Claudia Gonson take in hanging out at John Waters’ house, hooking up with a clown and a whole lot of drinking as they carouse from heartbreak to headache.
When the formula hits, Partygoing is perfect; Living, Loving, Partygoing is like a camp, haughty Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Keep Your Children In A Coma is the most fun you can have telling kids to get off your lawn. Not everything catches fire, and if you don’t guess seconds in advance where the rhymes are going in songs like A Drink Is Just The Thing then you’re not listening hard enough.
Ultimately, this is more solid stuff from Merritt and co. after his slump last decade, but if you’re not already on the bandwagon, there’s not much.
_ ALEX GRIFFIN