Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Pure spirituality. People talk about being born again or being enlightened. This is the closest I can say I have ever gotten to either of them and it is because of Medium Cool by Luther Russell. This is uplifting in addition to being a vital release. I am going to take out Ms. Sally’s magic mirror from Romper Room. I think a lot of those names were made up, but what I am about to write is 100% authentic, like the music I am listening to. So instead of see, I hear REM, The Byrds, The Cramps, Cheap Trick, The Velvet Underground, and some Big Star. As I have stated before, pop does not have to be a dirty word. In this case, pop is the ultimate compliment.
Luther has the ability, not unlike Ty Segall, to take sounds that may be out of place on their own and make them part of a complete ensemble. He can weave a really heavy guitar riff into a slow song and make you say “WOW!”. And feedback is my favorite instrument, if used properly. And Luther knows quite a bit about feedback. Speaking of feedback, I am sure it will all be positive when discussing Medium Cool.
I don’t have to listen very long in order to determine that this release is something special. Just listening to the first track, Deep Feelings is a truly religious experience. It starts off with a very lovely Big Star-esque riff from the song In The Street off of #1 Record. Then at 15 seconds in, Luther takes a sharp left at the bottom of the hill and some of the most ear appealing funk is unleashed. The next three and a half minutes are a pure and beautiful funk dance fest. Try to sit still during this song, I dare ya. I double dare ya.
One of the artists I didn’t mention in the intro who also seemingly has a profound impact on Luther Russel’s sound is Elvis Costello. Talking To Myself (Track 8) is a song that straddles the line between rock and punk and never misses a step. This song walks that line like a snail on a straight razor. That past reference compliments of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.
Alright, back to some good old-style power pop fashioned in the vein of all the 70s power pop gods: Badfinger, Big Star, T Rex, and Cheap Trick. The Mount Rushmore of power pop. Well, I am thinking that we may need more mountain after I listen to Sad Lady (Track 7). This is pure power pop gold. It has some good noise which is tempered by stellar lead and backing vocals. Another beautiful use of a totally funky guitar riff that sends this song on a trajectory in outer space.
I have been know to write, “If you buy one piece of music this year, buy this one.” I am going to expand that mantra, if you haven’t bought music this decade, Medium Cool is the one to get. Yes, it’s that good. But please hurry up, the decade is almost over.