"Songs of No Consequence"
Released in 1976, Graham Parker and the Rumour's "Howlin' Wind" was a crucial link between pub-rock and punk. The cantankerous British singer-songwriter's punchy roots-rock was soon emulated by Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson -- both of whom did better with it commercially -- and Parker became a perpetual also-ran. He's a dogged one, though, as he demonstrates with "Songs of No Consequence," a stylistically unsurprising but spirited new album. "I can play the guitar / Just like I'm wringing a neck," he sings, a line that neatly synthesizes Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" with Parker's still-prickly sensibility.
In recent years, Parker has recorded in various formats, including as a solo troubadour. He went to Bloodshot, which specializes in "insurgent country," for the twangy "Your Country," but his new album returns to familiar styles and longtime gripes: "Vanity Press" and "There's Nothing on the Radio" blast the failings of the corporate media, while Parker's current backup band, the Figgs, shows its fluency in R&B-based pop-rock. "We're all working for the vanity press," Parker barks, but don't include him in that indictment. "Songs of No Consequence" is no breakthrough, but it's a vigorous declaration of continued independence.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Monday at Iota with the Figgs.