By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
Spins and Reviews | 11.01.17
Dave Caruso | Buddha Pesto Manifesto (2017)
Because you can be doing one thing and attending to another in the same space, you can be forever pulled apart in the service of inner peace. So when Dave Caruso sings “We’re diagramming Goldblum and punctuating Shatner” in the clever construct “Punctuating Shatner,” he’s asking you to resolve the eternal question that plagues us all: Do you want to fit in or stand out in a crowd?
Across the board, Caruso’s new songs, which form the whole of his career-defining new album, Buddha Pesto Manifesto, play with the duality of the times in our lives when decisions must be made. Easy or hard to fathom, these decisions are the fabric of our lives, set within this album to glide along atop durable melodies that beat to the heart of the matter.
The protagonist in the upbeat Elvis Costello-esque attraction “Go Ahead–Don’t Listen” is aching to convince his partner to stay in his orbit by suiting up for a bit of understated psychological warfare: “…you can go ahead–don’t listen to me/Go ahead–don’t listen to me/Cause I’ve got nothing to say and it won’t change anything anyway,” he posits, hoping she will get what he’s really going on about. Her reward? A pleasing Beatles chord as the song comes to a close.
In the lithely dramatic, baroque, beautifully-sung “God’s Green Acre,” the narrator is trying to convince someone to cut ties with a less-than sincere, game-playing woman. “She won’t strike you down/But she’ll knock you good whenever you’re not around,” he sings, trying to point out the obvious. In the infectious, Merseybeat-styled “Hanging With You,” the decision to be made is plainly stated and easy to make: “I know what I wanna do/I’m only happy when I’m hanging with you.” But will his decision be that easy and, ultimately, fulfilling?
It really is that easy, or hard, or impossible, caught as we can be in a situation that is seemingly impossible to negotiate to our advantage, and no more so within the space that this album occupies than in the heartbreaking ballad that closes these proceedings. “I Get to Make You Laugh,” delivered emotionally by Caruso’s tender vocal and keyboard, finds the narrator self-realizing that another man has the woman’s commitment at the same time that the narrator has her soul.
“So tell me: who is the ‘have not’ and who’s the ‘have?’,” he wonders. “He gets to hold you, but I get to make you laugh.” The decision is clear, but how does the narrator make it, and is it the right one? And under which circumstances? What is best for the situation, for the hearts swirling in the mix?
That Caruso is able to negotiate the waters of decision in his lyrics while painting delicious landscapes with his melodic brush is a testament to his skill as a writer and performer. He is on his own in these 10 songs, playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals. Aided masterfully by Andy Reed, who mixed and mastered, bringing each element of these songs to glorious life, Caruso has made a career-defining album stocked deep with catchy songs that does nothing less than offer him the chance to make a decision of his own.
What does Dave do next? Buddha Pesto Manifesto, coming three years after the bravura performances captured within his breakout album Cardboard Vegas Roundabout, sets a high bar for future musical endeavors. From the outside looking in, it seems this decision, at least, is an easy one.
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