Not much is known about the shadowy figure of Jeff Lipman except that he has a timegun and isn’t afraid to use it. I’m not sure what this timegun is, but the artwork on this album includes a nice illustration and a number of schematics. The timegun, however, is not listed as one of the instruments played on this latest album from 20to20 Soundesign.
As is the case with much of the output from 20to20, this album refuses to fit any single genre and brashly revels in its eclectic nature. The instruments are, for the most part, the usual collection of guitars, upright bass, piano, organs, drums and saxophones. Those recruited in playing these instruments include Kent Klee, Jim Steele, Aaron Winebrenner and Tommy Myers, plus songwriter Lipman who also sings and plays guitar. Studio guru Bob Phillips adds other instrumentation and a judicious amount of studio treatments and textured musical noise. While in many hands these tools become a standard rock album with touches of R&B, the Lipman touch is a bit more expansive, delving into a variety of forms with great melodic appeal.
“Ego,” with its jangly guitars, upright bass, piano, Mersey beat and fun first-person egomaniac lyrics, will leave you happily singing “It’d take an army just to satisfy me / And my ego we go dance a silent victory.” Growling dueling saxophones and zooming saucer sounds make “Caught” a sonic pop delight, while “O My Lord” jumps into a fast country hoe-down shuffle with lap steel and lots of twang. The slow, sad “Hollows” bears a George Harrison influence with portamento guitars, harmonica and lyrics of regret, sliding nicely into the delicious two-part vocal harmony of “Walk Your God,” a sparse song of clean guitars broken by spacey synths and gritty NASA transmissions. Despite the swirling tribal anthem rhythms of “QNA” (“We’ve got questions / We want answers!”), the Spooky Tooth swagger of “Free,” the piano lounge of “Traffic” or the flanged Floyd nod of “Crux” (where a heart monitor provides the beat), the songs somehow hold together amazingly well, forming an album instead of a disparate collection of tunes.
One final word of warning: This album is a grower. Slap on some headphones and give it more than three listens, and suddenly you’ll find yourself singing along with the angsty “Big Bro,” reveling in the distorted horns and groovy rhythms and hoping that Jeff Lipman’s Timegun will take you back to the beginning of the album once the final track winds to a halt.