Out-Losered?

The album is being released exclusively through the Razor and Tie label site (www.razorandtie.com).

Graham Parker fans -- and they're a modest-sized but rabid bunch -- like

to tell you that their hero coulda been a contender if only the

record-company heathens and the spoon-fed public had a whit of class,

taste or intelligence. The liner notes to Loose Monkeys: Spare Tracks

and Lost Demos, Parker's newly-released collection of outtakes and

demos, reveal that their hero agrees with them. Even though the liner

notes are only available at Parker's website (www.punkhart.com/gparker),

it's impossible to listen to Loose Monkeys without sensing

Parker's bitterness at being eternally underappreciated. After all, this

is the same guy who once sang "I don't appeal to the masses, and the

masses don't appeal to me."

If only it were that simple.

After Parker came on the scene in 1976, his romantic-in-cynic's-clothing

star was quickly eclipsed by Elvis Costello, who did the same thing,

only better. While Costello soon progressed beyond the New

Wave-cum-pub-rock-cum-Motown sound that typified his early releases,

Parker's never gotten past it. There's not much on Loose Monkeys

that wouldn't have sounded at home on Parker's best album, Squeezing

Out Sparks (1979), or on Costello's This Year's Model for

that matter.

That's not to say there aren't some gems here, particularly among the

six full-band recordings that kick off the album. Parker opens with

"There's a Ghost in My House," as obscure a Motown cover as you're

likely to find. His gravelly voice puts a Stax twist on this and his own

"Wherever You Are," here providing an emotive counterpoint to the

string-and-piano-heavy arrangement. Too bad Parker admits in his liner

notes that he never wanted to put more than one "midtempo soul/R&B

groove" on his albums; he's strongest when he's in blue-eyed soul mode.

Despite his angry young man pose (one that has progressed conveniently

into cranky old fart territory), the best of the rest here are the most

unabashedly romantic numbers, songs Parker seems genuinely embarrassed

by. In his notes, he pokes fun at the straightforwardness of "I'm In

Love With You," apologizes for the jaunty "I Just Can't Capture His

Imagination" and asks forgiveness for the lovely "Natalie," written for

his daughter. He needn't.

He's much prouder of arch satire than he is of vulnerable expressions of

emotion, which explains the inclusion of "Durban Poison," a

reggae-tinged critique of white imperialism; and "Corporate Rock," a

coffeehouse-folk attack on mainstream radio. Neither tune's accuracy and

wordplay overcome their obviousness (especially when they've

essentially been written dozens of times before, to best effect on

Costello's "Radio Radio" and any number of Clash tunes). The rest of the

acoustic demos are too similar in their major-key, pub-rock sound for

any of them to stand out.

So Loose Monkeys isn't going to win Parker any converts. Not that

it's necessarily intended to, since it's for sale only via Razor & Tie's

website (www.razorandtie.com). And while his longtime fans will likely

treasure it as yet more evidence that Parker hasn't gotten his due, the

music doesn't back that up. A talented one-trick pony is a one-trick

pony, nonetheless.