REVIEW: Don Muro - "It's Time"

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Don Muro - It's Time
Record Label - Flannelgraph Records
Release Date - October 8, 2013

If Don Muro's self-released, 1977 debut LP It's Time was a novel, it would begin in medias res. Several slaps of the snare on the album's opening, title track give way to circus-like synth lines that feel as if they're already in motion. Muro's spacey keyboard chops serve as the lynchpin of the axle that propels this scatter-brained experiment in styles and genres. There's no time to deliberate. It's as if Muro is glaring impatiently from the driver's seat of a bus that's late for its next stop. "On or off, Bud. This rig is moving with or without you."

The propulsive, full-throttle energy of "It's Time" downshifts into a more organic and patient space on follow-up track "Current Events." The song builds from swells of ambient bass notes. Muro doesn't let go until the midpoint of the track, weaving flares of synth around a buoyant rhythm on keys. The spurt of energy is only temporary, though. Muro recedes into more ambient material just over a minute later and then catapults back into hyper drive only seconds after that. For nearly eight minutes, "Current Events" plays out this tug-of-war that encapsulates the simultaneously schizophrenic and singular personality of It's Time.

My mind tends to drift towards the end of "Current Events" only to have it snap to attention at the outset of "Sweet Little Thing." Brash, bluesy riffs on guitar underscore infectious pop vocals that feel ripped from some long lost Big Star b-side. First time listeners will stare puzzled, wondering how some other band managed to invade their stereo system in the middle of an album. That is, until the jaunty bass-driven outro. The swirls of synth assure us that Muro remains at the wheel.

If it's possible for such a diverse collection of songs to have a signature single, my vote is for the album's centerpiece "Squash." Here, it finally feels like we're getting to the crux of what Don Muro is all about. The playful, guttural delivery of the song's lone lyric is indicative of the overall mood of It's Time. By the time Muro's cascade of ecstatic "Oooh-oohs" and "Yeah-Yeahs" roll over the song's danceable rhythms, we're locked in. I find it nearly impossible not to extend my arms to the sky, waving them to and fro' like some kind of puppet at a Naughty By Nature concert.

It's Time loses me for a bit on the b-side. "Island In the Sky" feels inflated, a pastiche of popular themes from the late 70s. The acoustic-driven follow-up "Want You to Know" is every bit as distracting a tangent as "Sweet Little Thing," but much less rewarding. Fortunately, Muro closes out strong. "Lay Low Down" bridges the gap between the listlessness of It's Time's middle passage and the prog rock instrumentals of the album's two-track finale "Music Box" and "Russian Dream."

It's easy to see how It's Time faded into obscurity upon its initial release. The diversity of its track listing made discerning a niche market for this LP a nightmare. However, now could be the perfect time for a resurgence. In many ways, Muro's refusal to conform to a genre is a luxury that current musicians can afford. Today's listeners purchase singles and populate playlists a la carte. Daft Punk's release of Random Access Memories has made "disco" a veritable buzz word again. Maybe it finally is Don Muro's time. Listen to a six-minute sampler from It's Time below, and grab your copy on limited-edition vinyl from Flannelgraph Records.


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