Eric Schwartz,
Pleading the First:
Songs My Mother Hates

(Claritone, 2000)

This is not a PC recording.

After enjoying Eric Schwartz's previous album, That's How It's Going to Be, I was prepared for some left-of-center material. Schwartz certainly didn't disappoint; in fact, he exceeded expectations.

"Why is it that I feel the need to write songs that are like this? ... I was told that I shouldn't." He readily admits, during his between-song patter, that his First Amendment rights are likely to be infringed by someone acting on their Second Amendment rights ... but it sounds like he's having just too much fun to care.

That said, Schwartz's mother won't be alone. There will be plenty of people who hate this recording. That's 'cause Schwartz takes giddy delight in puncturing every sacred cow there is, offending every race, gender and special interest he can poke his lyrics at. He does it quite on purpose, and his live audience digs every word. Perhaps a few shifted uncomfortably on rare occasion, because at one point Schwartz offered them this solace: "The problem is, you're fighting with yourself. 'I should not be laughing at this. I should not be laughing. What kind of a person this makes me!'"

And on he goes.

The album begins with "Who Da Bitch Now?" -- and it sets the tone right away by telling the story of a bigoted and violent cop who pays the ultimate price in prison. Things get a bit tamer for the "Trust Fund Blues," about a man who wants his money now.

"Charliesomething" deconstructs the Peanuts gang, positing a future of alternate lifestyles. "Taco Bill's Cannon," to the tune of Pachelbel's Canon, lampoons President Clinton's sex life, screwy family life and other facts of modern politics. Then the singer takes charge in the cheery "The Coronation of President Schwartz" -- at midpoint, he loses his lines, but he recovers quickly and I'm sure no one even noticed....

Maintaining the presidential theme is "Monica's Mouth," and you can guess what that one's about. There's a great amount of lover's revenge in the happy-go-lucky "Pancake Song." "Come Out of the Closet" is exactly what it sounds like. "Hey, Weren't You Gay?" tells the woe of a man whose object of affection uses an old line to avoid his flirtations. He gets sillier in "Stoned People," listing things they do and laugh at. Do you feel sorry for him when he sings "I Swear, She Said She Was Eighteen"? Probably not. But I'm sure a lot of folks empathize with the feeling, if not the overall sentiment, of "Telemarket Trailer-Park-It Trash." And will Whitney Houston enjoy the final, hidden track? Absolutely and without a doubt not.

This is not an album for all occasions. This is not a crowd-pleaser for all audiences. But the audience at this recording (or recordings, for the liner notes say the album was taped "in various secret locations in the Boston Area") were clearly on Schwartz's side. It's a fun, funny, giggle-behind-the-garage kind of album which we should not be laughing at. But we are.

What kind of person does this make me? At the moment, amused. Now let me go switch CDs before anyone walks into the room and hears this.

[ by Tom Knapp ]