Kurt Baker’s “Rockin’ for a Living” doesn’t impress

In the first ten seconds of singer/songwriter Kurt Baker’s new album, “Rockin’ for a Living,” the deep strumming of a guitar slowly builds up and intensifies as we lean forward in our seats hoping we’ve stumbled upon revived rock ‘n’ roll.

Twelve seconds in, all hope is lost. Baker’s voice comes in goofy and gung-ho, perfect for the theme song of a ‘90s sitcom, but more so the type of music played at a middle school dance than a head-banging concert. The music’s fun, but power chords get repetitive and one-syllable words don’t always have to be sung with five.

Heavily influenced by the 1960s and ‘70s and comparable to a whinier Elvis Costello, Baker truly is retro, managing to steal sounds from the past without being hipster. It’s admirable that he does what he loves, but his songs lack originality; instead of taking old music and putting a fresh spin on it, he sounds like he’s the son of one of The Beach Boys, trying to recreate music that’s already had its era.

Songs like “Can’t Have Her Back” and “The Problem” incorporate organ solos, making them seem as though they were written at church camp in the awkward years of rejection. The real “problem” is that these songs get stuck in your head like advertising jingles you’re embarrassed you know by heart.

The album has only six tracks, but by track four, “Kiss Me,” the cliches and cheeky lyrics begin to feel unbearable. “Girl I’d rather die than live without you/No matter what your parents say,” he trills.

Whether Baker’s songs will put a smile on your face or make you cringe all depends on how well you tolerate power pop. But it’s likely that listening to all of these songs at once might result in an irrepressible urge to catch a cab to the nearest karaoke bar in search of better music.

September 10, 2012


Hunter Wright

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Kurt Baker’s “Rockin’ for a Living” doesn’t impress”

  1. Joe Bob Halley says:

    To each his own, but your opinion is just that and you may or may not have experience and judgment sufficient to make it credible. On the other hand, there are knowledgable power pop people who have a view opposite from yours. Like this guy, David Bash, who puts Baker’s album FIRST on his best albums of 2011 list. How could that be unless in actual fact it’s an ass-kicker?

    David Bash’s Favorite Albums of 2011

    Here are my lists of favorite albums of 2011. As is my usual custom, I’ve broken this down into several categories, as I’m just not comfortable ranking unlike entities on one list.

    I. Top 100 Albums

    1. Kurt Baker – Rockin’ For A Living (Stardumb)*
    2. The Secret Powers-What Every Rose Grower Should Know (Self-Released)
    3. Wiretree-Make Up (Cobalt Works)
    4. The Nines-Polarities (TAS GOLD)
    5. Groovy Uncle-Play Something We Know! (State)*
    6. Cirrone-Uplands Park Road (Escape)
    7. Brandon Wilde-Hearts In Stereo (Self-Released)**
    8. The Story UK-Joyride On Memory Lane (Rainbow Quartz)
    9. Vegas With Randolph-Above The Blue (Caged Giant)
    10. Long Play 33 1/3-Being Nowhere (Self-Released)
    11. Pugwash-The Olympus Sound (EMI)
    12. An American Underdog-Always On The Run (Pop Factory)
    13. Fountains Of Wayne-Sky Full Of Holes (Yep Roc)
    14. The Galileo 7-Are We Having Fun Yet? (Teen Sound)
    15. The Red Button-As Far As Yesterday Goes (Grimble)
    16. The Smithereens-2011 (Eone)
    17. The Wellingtons-In Transit (Zip)
    18. Pyewacket-1967 (It’s About Music)
    19. Brandon Schott-13 Satellites (Golden State)
    20. Greg Pope-Blue Ocean Sky (Self-Released)
    21. Michael Oliver & The Sacred Band-Yin & Yanxiety (Self-Released)
    22. Suzy & Los Quattro-Hank (B Core)
    23. Supraluxe-The Super Sounds Of Supraluxe (Self-Released)
    24. Ulysses-Everybody’s Strange (Self-Released)
    25. The Breakdowns-The Kids Don’t Wanna Bop Any More (Rock Indiana)

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