Mayday – Bushido Karaoke

Bushido Karaoke

Mayday’s third album, Bushido Karaoke, sounds like the soundtrack to a psychological drama set in the 1950s that Nick Cave has yet to compose. Bushido Karaoke shares Cave’s fascination with the dark side of contemporary life but adds a distinctively Nebraskan approach to its seedy stories. The album opens with several tracks that showcase Mayday’s ability to set scents, sounds, and sights through striking instrumental combinations. “Pelf Help” and “Booze & Pills” are fine examples of Mayday’s blend of pianos and drums and brass, fiddle, and guitar, respectively.

Ted Stevens’ weary vocals on brief introspective tracks like “Continental Grift” and “Hidden Leaves” help to project the worldly wisdom of his characters as listeners are exposed to tales in a rural tone. The band offers pure rockabilly with “I’m Not Afraid to Die.” Even the song title is perfect for the 1950s musical mentality that Mayday so comfortably explores on Bushido Karaoke. “Rock and Roll Can’t Save Your Life” lumbers as if a frustrated romantic were trying his luck in a 1970s smoky bar in the middle of nowhere. This account of lives destroyed on the road to success in the music world has the resigned chorus: “Rock and roll can’t save your life / But it just might save the night.”

Other moments on Bushido Karaoke range from the psychedelic dirge of “Burned My Hands” to rollicking country western plots like “Dave D. Blues (How to Make it Sting Like a Career)” and “Exquisite Corpse.” Certainly, the most surprising track on this often tired yet occasionally strong album is Mayday’s cover of “Old World New World.” A song near the end of INXS’ Shabooh Shoobah, “Old World New World” came off muscular and sexy as a geographically rich dance-rock tune recorded by the famous Aussie sextet. While it’s interesting to hear “Old World New World” with harmonica, accordion, and Stevens’ quaking voice, Mayday’s cover sounds too quirky and loose.

That isn’t the band’s only misstep on this 14-track album, but it’s arguably the most glaring. Nevertheless, Bushido Karaoke has some lovely moments, and all of Mayday’s original tracks sound genuine, if nothing else. The music is clearly intended to sound as if it had been recorded two generations ago, and Mayday proceeds lovingly on a road that mixes brilliance with occasional blandness.