Modern Standard... If you know your Tihistory
Review: Kevin Tihista – Modern Standard
Published on August 7th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
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Last year, Californian singer/songwriter Kevin Tihista returned from a seven-year hiatus with the superb On This Dark Street, a triumph of gallows humour and the interchangeable properties of darkness and light. Thankfully we’ve not had long to wait for its successor Modern Standard, as it’s equally as good if not even better.
Tihista’s voice is irresistible, like being zapped with cooling jets of sweet, distilled water that just so happen to land in patterns that spell out lyrics by turns acerbic and heartbreaking. The prevailing reverb-soaked acoustics of On This Dark Street are immediately challenged by the chiming piano chords and ’70s rock lead guitar of ‘solo Lennon’-ish opener “Infinity”, all of which is indicative of the altogether grander, more lightly coloured production and arrangements of Modern Standard.
Elsewhere we get songs taking flight with wailing fuzz lead and heaps of lush harmonies (“Right Here, Girl” and “Just Can’t Get High Anymore”), Bowie-esque piano progressions (“Try the Veal”) and, of course, plenty of killer lyrics in amongst the more heartfelt fare.
“I’ve been trying all afternoon, but this stuff wears off too soon / I guess the only answer is I’ll just have to try some more” concludes Tihista on “Just Can’t Get High Anymore”, “I’m getting by on my hairstyle, she’s getting by on her ass / Her beautiful ass” he declares on the oddly mournful “Sequisha Chingade Picante”, while “Try the Veal” steals the show with “The landlady won’t let me in / She says I owe a hundred bucks / For the last six times we fucked”…
…and “I’m dining at Chez Garbage Can again”…AND “I went back, tried to make amends / But that cow still won’t let me in / She says that this shit ain’t for free / I say the way you fuck, it should be”…oh, and a simple yet effective flute line. Top stuff yet again from the man who last year started a doom-laden ballad with “I’m sorry that I ripped the cover off your Jack Kerouac novel / But I had to blow my nose”.
All of which isn’t to distract from the musical merits of Modern Standard; “Texas Girl” starts out all Neil Young before taking an unexpected ‘jazz piano’ turn, “The City” is like a sweet ‘n’ silly Paul McCartney/Ray Davies-like number, and closing track “On My Way” throws a daft, fizzy keyboard solo in amongst its sophisticated Beach Boys/ELO songwriting. That dropping of a minor chord into an otherwise major progression for full swoonsome effect? That’s a mark of quality right there.
Oh, and you won’t find many better song titles this year than “Happy People, Shut Your Mouths”. How could we not love this?
Modern Standard is out now on Broken Horse.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!