Chris Ligon returned to Chicago from Delaware with his wife, cartoonist Heather McAdams, a couple years ago, which is about when I realized that I’d always taken him for granted. The goofiness of his music usually put me off, and it didn’t help that he ain’t exactly a great singer. But each time I’ve listened to his brand-new anthology Look at the Birdy, compiled by Terry Adams of NRBQ and released on his Clang! label, I’ve enjoyed it more.
Yes, Ligon’s songs are goofy, but they’re also wonderfully strange. He shies away from no perversity in his absurd lyrics (“I drank too much and I thought I could touch your little sister / She’s only seven, but she looks eleven”), and with the help of his odd delivery, which is usually either deadpan or excited, they can be pretty hilarious.
Equally important, he’s got a strong grip on many different styles, from the harmony-rich dream pop of “Florida” to the nerve-fraying lo-fi tape experiment “I Don’t Date” to the rickety, herky-jerky rockabilly of “Buglight” (where he applies a demented post-Beefheart croak to lines like “When my girl sees a bug pop and drop dead / She likes to hop in bed and hug tight”). There are also some wonderful pure comedy bits like “Dr. Peanut,” where a geeky chiropractor tries to pick up a former patient and take her to a Japanese restaurant where they have “ka-roke-ee!”
On Saturday night at the Hideout Ligon will celebrate the release of the new CD with help from Nora O’Connor, his brother Scott Ligon (the only other musician on the album), Casey McDonough, Sharon Rutledge, and Alex Hall. McAdams will also show some films from her cracked collection of 16-millimeter shorts.
Handsome Family, Honey Moon (Carrot Top)
Cecil Taylor, William Parker, and Masahi Harada, The Dance Project (FMP)
Guy Clark, Texas Cookin’ (DBK)
Gil Melle Quartet, The Complete Prestige Recordings 1956-1957 (Fresh Sound)
Decay, Unlikely Hero (Molemen)