Sunday, February 11, 2024

Lorne Behrman - Blue Love

It's sometimes mind-blowing to me when I realize that Lorne Behrman has been releasing solo music for less than three years. Songs like "Oh Lord, Give Me Time" and "Black Cars" feel like they've been part of my life forever, and hearing Behrman's extraordinary new album Blue Love (out now on the fabulous Spaghetty Town Records) is like catching up with a cherished, ever-dependable friend. While I've been a fan of his musical talents going back to the early days of my music-reviewing life, I count his decision to become a lead artist in his later 40s as a blessing to me and numerous others who've gained so much from his songs. On Blue Love, Behrman returns to his poetic rock style with roots in New York punk, but he builds off of it rather than rehashing it. I always knew he was a great writer — but on this release, he distinguishes himself as a truly great songwriter.  

Blue Love, like its predecessor A Little Midnight, exudes the spirit of New York City. The ghosts of Lou Reed, Jim Carroll, Tom Verlaine, Johnny Thunders, Robert Quine, and Willy DeVille inhabit these songs. Yet even with this influence so palpable, Behrman's sound and style are authentically his. What's particularly noticeable about Blue Love is how deeply melodic these songs are. Sometimes with poetic rock, the music is very minimalist or even secondary to the lyrics and vocals. That's far from the case here. These songs are well-crafted, highly tuneful, and constructed in a way that fully complements Behrman's conversational vocal style. Much credit must be given to Behrman's excellent guitar work and to the formidable talents of his supporting musicians (Matt Dougherty, Ray Mazza, Steve Mosto, Danielle McCullough, and Matt Chiaravalle [who also produces]). Yet there's just no denying the quality of these songs — which are chock full of memorable melodies and indelible hooks. 

Blue Love is loosely a concept record. Says Behrman: This album is about experiencing pain and joy at the same time—like finding new love when everything in your life feels like it's falling apart." Behrman manages to write about love in a way that's neither naïve nor cynical but rather relatable and true to life. In some cases, songs depict relationships which are damaged, turbulent, and perhaps even destined to fail. In others, songs find love turning up in otherwise unfortunate situations for otherwise unfortunate individuals. The theme of the album was at least partially inspired by the absolutely beautiful film The Panic in Needle Park (directed by Jerry Schatzberg, another artist who didn't find his true calling until he was in his 40s). In looking at love through a lens that is both deeply tender and bluntly realistic, Behrman channels the spirit of the movie and reminds us why it's so timeless. "Barbara," which tells a tale of two addicts in love, is the album's most literal homage to the film. "The Bellevue Song" finds its protagonists falling in love in a mental hospital, utilizing a mix of humor and heart that brings to mind my favorite love song ever written, the Parasites' "Crazy." "The Blue Goes On Forever" squeezes a novel's worth of co-dependent, unstable, and utterly doomed romance into just a few lines of verse. "Meet Me on the Moon" finds its ill-fated lovers grasping for one last glimmer of hope. On the album's remarkable finisher "Love in Desperate Times," Behrman opens a window to his soul with a very personal song about the love (between him and his daughter) that got him through a very difficult time in his life. What a beautiful way to tie together the themes of the album! 

Those who enjoyed A Little Midnight are sure to be fans of Blue Love as well. But this album is definitely a progression for Behrman. In terms of songwriting and production, Blue Love is a more ambitious affair that finds Behrman expanding his palette of influences. Certain songs on the album have the spirit, at least, of jazz or soul music. From the doo wop influences of "The Bellevue Song" to the KISS by way of the Dolls vibes of "Ferris Wheels" to the lounge-y smoothness of "Barbara" to the playful twang of "Blue Eyes Gone Green," there are lots of new wrinkles in the mix. Blue Love has the unique distinction of being both punk-inspired and also the perfect album for a chill Sunday morning.  And somehow this record manages to be full of warmth even as it oozes New York cool. The album bio's description of "Bob Dylan as produced by Phil Spector in 1970s CBGBs on a full moon" could not be any more on-point. Chiaravalle does a masterful job of assisting Behrman in realizing his musical vision. 

Considering the body of work Behrman has built in just a few short years, I would most definitely put him in the conversation if we're discussing my favorite present-day songwriters. And yet I wouldn't necessarily say it's a shame that he waited so long to find his calling as a singer & songwriter. All this happened at exactly the right time (and the right time in his life). We're in the midst of Lorne Behrman's moment, and what a privilege it is to receive what he's putting out there. 

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