I had but one simple question for Austin, TX’s Walker Lukens about his shiny new album, Tell It To The Judge (out 9/22 on via Modern Outsider Records), and I had all the faith that Lukens’ response would be an objective and honest opinion, unbiased and linear in thought…
Me: “You’re the top music critic in the world and write for Zero F*cks Given Magazine. What would your one paragraph review of Tell It To The Judge say?”
Walker Lukens: “That shit sounds like Walker & Eno kidnapped the RZA, Billy Gibbons, and The Time, and made them interpret ‘We Are The World’ 11 times.”
Alrighty, then. Safe to say that if Austin, TX is still good at anything, it’s still good at keeping it weird. Thanks for coming, dude.
But, in truth, there really is a lot going on in Lukens’ second full length album and all of it results in an elevation of his soulful, indie rock/pop groove game. With Spoon drummer Jim Eno handling producer duties, Tell It To The Judge flies on its embrace of things sonically vintage, contemporary and weird, as well as Lukens well-esteemed lyrical skill. He may write like a romantic balladeer or Casanova-lite (and no, we’re not mad at it), but when fused with those jittery 80s synths, horns and some beatboxing (say what?), “Don’t Wanna Be Lonely (Don’t Wanna Leave You Alone)” is as timely a mashup in 2017 as “Love Me Tender (Don’t Be Cruel)” would be in 1956…if it actually had anything to do with Elvis Presley. But it doesn’t. Not mad at that, either.
So from the heavy blitz on “Jacket On Your Shoulder” to the the shimmying doo-wop and echo chamber of “Every Night,” Lukens freely flexes his bluesier muscles all over the place and “Lifted” jumps and lands straight up at the feet of Talking Heads with no shame, but it’s so finely tuned with Lukens imprint that it’s more homage than appropriation. By the back end of the record things gets necessarily sweeter to the touch (no pun intended) and all that this does is confirm what a genius this Lukens/Eno pairing truly is as Eno has most certainly helped expand Lukens’ musical playground.
As an album, possibly the best aspect of the entire package is once you initially hit ‘Play’ you genuinely have no idea – structurally – where it’s all going, yet you will appreciate the hell out of it when it gets there. And that’s why Tell It To The Judge is my High Voltage Album of the Week.