Reid Paley, Brooklyn’s bard of tough luck, weathered souls, and lots of highballs, proudly romanticizes his rapscallion ways with a gruff, booming voice that could give Tom Waits goose bumps. What would be considered pissing and moaning in the mouths of others is an honorable call to arms in Paley’s. His frustrations are palpable, musically and otherwise. He signs his letters, “In existential crisis in Brooklyn, Reid.”
Throughout his third album, Approximate Hellhound vs. the Monkey Demon, someone (usually Paley) is leaving, debating to leave, and/or promising to return. “If you’ll excuse me/I’m stepping into the light,” Paley shouts on the cool-jazz “Everything Is Going Wrong (& That’s Alright).” The bonanza of dejection on display here is nevertheless threaded with redemption and set to jaunty ragtime rock ‘n’ roll that’ll have knees bouncing till they dislocate. Paley literally offers his hand on three tracks, plays shrink to some hungover sad sack “half dead on Bedford Avenue,” and staunchly stomps out “Someday I’ll Be Okay.” He constantly tries to convince anyone within earshot that he’s a know-nothing sinner, not a leader. But this hellhound is nothing if not dogged, and on the final track, Paley repeatedly bellows, “Give me a fuckin’ goddamn drink! Stay awhile.” You’d best believe no one is leaving.
Reid Paley plays a benefit for Question Mark (of ? + the Mysterians) May 23 at the Highline Ballroom with Tommy Ramone, Paul Shaffer, and tons of other folks, highlineballroom.com.