Brian Gottesman – Pardon My Mess

Brian Gottesman
Pardon My Mess

Imagine if Ben Folds Five actually did have a guitarist. Well, there would go their gimmick of piano but no guitar. But imagine it, and you get a good sense of Pardon My Mess. For Brian Gottesman shares Ben Folds’ flare of often up-beat and rocking pop tracks that rely heavily on piano, yet Gottesman relies just as heavily – at the same time, mind you – on his guitarwork. Not favoring one over the other, really, is what makes this album so interesting.
Gottesman made a name for himself as headman of the Massachusetts funk outfit Chucklehead. When that band disbanded, Gottesman went into the studio to do his own thing, and despite a host of guests from bands such as Paula Cole, Morphine, Aimee Mann, Slide, and others, Gottesman really does most of the work. Key is his vocals – the perfect intimate pop vocals – that mix so well with his guitar and piano.
The album starts with the almost crooning pop track “Nothing I Can Do” that shows off Gottesman’s funk leanings when suddenly it breaks into ripping guitar riffs and a slight funk rhythm. But then you get that Ben Folds’ ballad feel on “Ganymede,” a nice piano-driven track that leads nicely into the bouncy, bassy almost Mellancampy song “Days in Toledo.” Perhaps Springstein. Regardless, it’s not the best track here, not near as good as songs like “I’d Die,” which uses nice synthesizers and relies on Gottesman’s almost folk-style songwriting. And then “Survive” is all about the rock, with some strong electric guitars and much more rock-styled vocals. This is one of my favorites.
“Bottom’s Up” is another sweet piano-driven pop ballad ala Ben Folds, and the lyrics – all about being at the bottom and only having one direction to go – are excellent. The quiet, slightly Elton Johny “Into the Morning,” with its soulful backup vocals and smooth, almost bluesy feel, is another standout here, definitely standing out from the other tracks, and the quiet acoustic guitar on “The Ghost of Close Embrace” shows another side of Gottesman, a more Nick Drake-ish side. The title track is a nice, kind of throw-back pop song, quite beautifully done, and it really should have ended here, as “Find Our Feet” feels entirely unnecessary.
Gottesman really is a good songwriter, but what I like best about this album is that he doesn’t really favor the guitar over piano or vice versa. They both mix very well on virtually every track, lending a fresh approach to this style of pop. I really expect his music will do well on adult contemporary stations, although he definitely has a nice, more indie approach. Elliott Smith fans might enjoy this album, but I wouldn’t lump Gottesman in with such indie popsters. Let’s just keep him in the Ben Folds meets Tom Cochrane category and mark this as a fine solo debut.