Shining Hours In A Car (Ajax, 1995 - Merge, 2002), that contains the entire mini-album
Goodbye California (Sarah, 1994), is a collection of previously released
singles. Through these carefully-crafted home-made recordings, Cornog is
establishing himself as a
Brian Wilson of melancholy, lonely songs, that can nonetheless achieve an
achingly melodic beauty (Helmet On).
If Television were the main influence on his early singles, David Bowie and
synth-pop seem to be the influence on Mel (Merge, 1996), and that
is not a compliment. Cornog is moving towards a form of mainstream pop that
takes tremendous genius to redeem. He finds enough inspiration in the
ballads Beautiful Worn-Out Love, I Am A Small Mistake and
Lonely Line Away, mainly because they sound more like classical sonatas
ruined by a tedious singer.
The best moments are those in which Cornog wakes up and either speaks from the
heart (the stately, keyboards-based, six-minute dirge
We're Going to Nowhere) or forgets the pathos and delves into the
technique (the instrumental New York Crown, a collage
of noise, effects, distortions and melody).
Cornog turned to Lou Reed as a source of inspiration for the concept album
The Gasoline Age (Merge, 1999), devoted to the urban losers like all
his best songs (Atlantic City, Shiny Shiny Pimpmobile).
And now things begin to make sense: Cornog uses Brian Wilson's vocabulary
to create a musical idiom that reenacts Lou Reed's decadent poetry.
After a four-year hiatus, Cornog delivered another emotional product,
Garbageheads On Endless Stun (Merge, 2003), with melodic, lyrical
and arrangement gems such as Where Does All The Money Go and
Girls on the Freeway. The mood can be melancholy (The Long Black Cloud) and neurotic (Stare the Graveyard Down), but never overwhelming.
What Are You On (Merge, 2006) was a strange collection of short songs.
Crystal Queen and I'll Walk My Robot Home could rank among his
poppiest numbers, but they end too soon. Cornog seems obsessed with
drugs (What Are You On, Druglife, Some Dreams Can Kill You)
but hardly spends enough time or energy to explore the subject.
The electronic arrangements and the electronic beats sound like the kind of
music that an amateur conceives to disguise that he doesn't know how to
arrange his songs. Everything in this album could have been majestic and
subtle, but, instead, it turned out plain and trivial.
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