Once included amongst the Dylan-inspired, idealistic ilk of post-alternative bards like Pete Yorn and Howie Day, singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur’s sheer poetic nature and experimental sonic proclivity is beyond comparison to anyone. Arthur’s The Ballad of Boogie Christ is perhaps his most focused, yet stylistically eccentric work; a creative mind at play with avant-garde swaths of rock, folk, and soul from the mind of a true visionary.
A fan-financed effort through Pledge Music, the album instantly intrigues with “Currency of Love,” a Brill Building-inspired, psychedelic bubblegum ditty complete with subdued strings, teen-idol piano strains, and Arthur’s tongue-in-cheek bleeding heart (“with you in my circus, I go from strongman to clown.”) The rolling acoustic folk of the title track lyrically examines the what-if habits of Jesus with a cynic’s sneer (“Christ would bring chaos, the breadth of control”), while “Wait For your Lights” has more than a tinge of country sensibility, with a lonely nod to darkened Southern soul via an ambient, backing vocal chorus.
“Black Flowers” reeks of Exile On Main Street-era Stones, with a touch of musical paranoia and Marc Bolan showmanship. Arthur’s “classic” sound can be found on “King of Cleveland;” the track is a quieting, bittersweet piece of introspection following a protagonist “playing blues in the backseats.”
With emotive storytelling expressed through an artist’s eyes, Arthur’s melancholy goes straight to the heart.
- Mark Uricheck