Music Review: Adam Rivera – The Externals

Were the Ramones to go unplugged and decide to do a tribute to Sonny & Cher, it might give you a slight taste of what speed-folkster Adam Rivera – teamed up with Katie Feeney – build for this science-fiction-film-sounding release, The Externals.   But it wouldn’t give you the complete picture as Rivera’s work comes from another dimension and descends like a flying saucer on planet earth…and the music scene, giving inviting little snapshots like opening track “Hello” with its neo-skiffle evolving into modern pop sensibility.

The pair derive from a number of genres, “Time Lost” has spacey guitars which combine with and also draw from the folksy (if sped up, of course) guitars of celtic star Loreena McKennitt, perhaps subconsciously.  The two minutes and thirty three second song betting that you “feel the same way too” is one of the longer outings, six songs clocking in over three minutes, nothing touching the four minute mark. Short quick bursts of emotion and observation from Rivera’s eclectic imagination.

“Bluebird” is a well-crafted original and one of the best energies on this disc.  This is not a Bettye LaVette-styled reinvention of that Buffalo Springfield classic by the same name, the one where an extended version appeared on that band’s initial Greatest Hits lp RETROSPECTIVE however it would be fun to hear Feeney/Rivera do a LaVette on Stephen Stills’ “Bluebird” and then segue into their own.  “She got soul” Stills sings, and she still does today.

“Haunted By The Truth” would be nice in one of the Bourne films, or maybe the next Mission Impossible, it has a “spy” feel to me and drifts in and drifts out, in time for “Civil” with its pretty bells keeping the static guitar play somewhat in check.   “Forever More” takes the speed-folk to the Mardi Gras and the addition of foreign instruments helps to keep Rivera’s novel approach fresh.  Like with The Dickies or the Ramones, those listeners not totally in the embrace of the stylistic approach may find repeated spins redundant, “Miss You, Love You” is an exquisite song, and apart from the onslaught of 17 tracks in a row it breathes life of its own.  “For Evie” suffers from the overexposure of too much too soon while “Oceanside” is welcome relief, and stands out because it is so different.    “Jellyfish” keeps the summery topic going, with possible sharp consequences and more south-of-the-border horn for added effect.   “Merry X-Mas,” on the other hand, is a welcome change of pace from the usual Christmas fare inundating us now, sometimes even before Thanksgiving.

“The Sun” cascades in with sounds Hawaiian and, again, the more the pair stray from the core “sound” Rivera has created, the more their talents blossom.   “In the Mail” is shorter than the Box Tops “The Letter,” again, the noting to hit you quick and hard and leave like a one night stand not wearing out their welcome appears to be the motive behind these inventive ditties.

I’m the very best thing that “Never Happened” to you is a concept that could be explored in more depth. This is a song that demands more than the 1:55 it is given, an entire 20 minutes of it live a la the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” would be intriguing.   Feeney is featured on “So Emotional” which would have been a superb disco song given the speed folk underneath it.  Anathema to rock and rollers in its Whitney Houtson incarnation  a great song is a great song, and in this setting it is truly clever.

Three minutes and twenty-three seconds of “See You Around” is a nice way to end The Externals, the longest song on the four more than a baker’s dozen, leaving the door open for the next phase.   Perhaps the Dickies backing Katie Feeney and Adam Rivera in that Sonny and Cher tribute

You can find Adam Rivera on iTunes