SHARP THINGS GET TO POINT
By SPORT MURPHY
November 11, 2007—Guitarist Jim Santo gravely considers some of the genre pigeonholes commonly invoked to describe his group, the Sharp Things, and deadpans: “My biggest problem is that ‘Chamber Pop’ sounds too much like ‘chamber pot’.”
The Brooklyn-based Sharp Things hardly need contrived categories to stand out from the crowd – at a current count of 11 members, they are a crowd. Hauling enough instruments to shame a philharmonic, they’ll take the Knitting Factory stage on Tuesday night to make a joyful noise that eludes easy description.
The group began as a trio, performing the Burt Bacharach- and Scott Walker-inflected songs of singer-pianist Perry Serpa, gradually adding a French horn here and a few violins there, stone-soup style. Over three albums, the Sharpies continued to enrich their ranks and refine their approach, finally transcending influences to create the astonishing richness of their recent Bar/None release “A Moveable Feast.”
From the spare, recital-hall creepiness of album opener “The Jumpers” onward, Serpa’s anguished songwriting synthesizes a bewildering variety of styles. “Cruel Thing” nails the sheen and snap of Thom Bell’s symphonic Philly Soul. “An Ocean, Part Deux” and “The Devil in You Sings” throb with the perverse catchiness of Bowie at his glam peak.
Fans of baroque songsters like Rufus Wainwright or Sufjan Stevens will savor the stronger kick of the Sharp Things, as will anyone mourning the lush pleasures of albums like Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water.”
“I hear all this stuff in my head and if it has no outlet, it begins to ache,” Serpa says. “No amount of aspirin will take care of the pain. Only sweet music.”previous next