Chris Porro – Lampreys and Gigolos

Chris Porro
Lampreys and Gigolos

Lamprey – Any of various primitive elongated freshwater or anadromous fishes of the family Petromyzontidae, characteristically having a jawless sucking mouth with rasping teeth. Also called lamper eel.

Gigolo – A man who has a continuing sexual relationship with and receives financial support from a woman.

So a prehistoric fish and a male prostitute walk into a bar. Or, maybe a male prostitute walks into a bar with a prehistoric fish on his arm, or maybe the fish is the bartender and it all reeks of Kafka. No matter, Chris Porro wants to assure you those lampreys and gigolos can live peacefully with one another. His debut solo album, appropriately titled Lampreys and Gigolos, is an interesting blend of confessional diary-esque lyrics and fairly produced instrumentation to make for a rather textured moody pop album.

To flex his indie muscles and prove that not just people from Omaha can write songs about writings songs, the first song (wait for it), “The First Song,” eerily references Steve Miller for a few frightening seconds before the ghost of Roy Orbison begins to croon, “what you’ll be little boy / is doctors lawyers engineers / you see little boy?” Just as short as early Bad Religion tracks, the song serves as a nice precursor to the rather personal lyricism to come as the final line “the songs that you dream but don’t write” meshes into feedback before slipping into “Hi Son.” The well-produced studio quality is readily evident here as subtle sound effects (telephone) are worked into the background. When the chorus hits, the totally random trumpet adds a wonderful spacey quality to the song. Lyrically, Porro treads familiar sentiment as the goes down in history as another “Father regretting being a bad parent” tune. This one, however, goes down much better than “The Living Years” or any other late-80s schmaltz released by people in Genesis that were not Peter Gabriel.

The rest of the album runs the gauntlet of quirky pop ala XTC (“Go to Hollywood”) to moody Elvis Costello (“Merry Go Round”). “Go to Hollywood” wins out here, if only for the hipster nostalgic 80s Atari sound effects (\m/ Defender \m/) interspersed throughout the song. What they have to do with the song only Porro knows. Perhaps he’s trying to make some subtle statement about Hollywood stars being aliens from another planet, or maybe he just likes nonsensical sound effects with his pop. Either way, it works. “Merry Go Round” starts rather ominous before kicking into a rather bleak acoustic melody reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Blue Sky.” French horns make an appearance here to give the chorus a nice warm brass under it. “Pop Star” wins the prize for best buggle-gum pop track, with the opening lifted straight from what everyone liked about The Knack or new-wave in the 80s.

Listener Beware, though: the album is not without its faults, the most glaring and obnoxious of these being the field recordings placed seemingly randomly throughout the album. Field recordings are an odd beast. The guy from Neutral Milk Hotel supposedly has an album full of this stuff mixed with the Elephant Six brand of aural LSD to make one of those psychedelic records for all the hipsters to sit around and smoke pot with then proclaim the genius of delayed acoustic chords mixed in with truck stop conversation. Nothing so pretentious or goofy is found on Porro’s “sound bites.” Instead we’re given 30 seconds of ambient noise at a coffee shop, a rather unspectacular voice mail that further supports my idea that the answering machine should be banned entirely from recorded media (yeah, I’m looking at you Mr. Ben Folds), a rather inane 10-second ditty about not vomiting in a moving vehicle, and inexplicably two people humming along to “My Favorite Things” (yes the one you’re thinking of). Elsewhere, Porro manages to give guys who know girls named Allison another reason to make a mix tape. While nowhere near as genius as Slowdive’s “Allison” nor as mainstream as Gin Blossom’s “Allison Road,” “Pink Floyd and Allison” starts off promising enough. Any song that includes the line “it’s been so long since fucking meant anything” automatically gets my attention. Let’s hear it for jaded, tired, emotional sentiments! Unfortunately, the song does little to build on that one line lyrically and never does much musically. He does manage to sing about “lampreys and gigolos” again, so perhaps there is some hidden mystery.

Lampreys and Gigolos would be almost perfect if it would only lose some of the lesser tracks and all those godforsaken field recordings. As it stands, Porro has released a solid debut that, even with its faults, is definitely worth hearing. While the record is far from perfect, it definitely captures the immense potential that Porro is capable of. This is one to watch, kids.