Cabaret of Daggers - Tav Falco (ORG Records)
Tav Falco is one of rock and roll’s outliers who sits in a unique musical space and time of his own creation. “Cabaret of Daggers” is a mix of traditional American, lounge, jazz and rootsy blues-rock songs that nobody else on the planet could have made.
Tav continually dips back in time and cherrypicks music to place into his own setting. That setting being his Italian version of Panther Burns. “Cabaret of Daggers” was recorded in Rome with vocals tracked at Sun Studios. It will be a LP run of 750 copies released on Record Store Day on November 23.
You do know Panther Burns included Alex Chilton among its early members? That he’s an actor, filmmaker, photographer and contemporary of The Cramps and The Gun Club who’s been an influence on countless swamp, rockabilly and blues-punk bands that have followed? Falco now lives in Vienna - a long way from his old digs in the ‘80s above Sydney’s Petersham Inn - dabbling in all forms of art. This is his millionth record.
“Cabaret of Daggers” draws on many sources - most notably The Great American Songbook - and thankfully sounds nothing like Michael Buble or the contemporary Rod Stewart. It’s a surreal record that should be presented, live, on a velvet-curtained stage, lined in pot plants and situated in an old-time music hall. The mood is positively arcane.
Bob Dylan has had his go at croaking American musical museum pieces and you could call those records self-indulgent, except Zimm has earned the right to do whatever the fuck he wants. Tav Falco also indulges himself but sprinkles the jazz and blues standards with originals that are laced with prickly lyrical insights into geo-politics and the dumbing down of the global psyche.
This is how the doom-laden “Strange Fruit” sits next to “New World Order Blues”, an unmistakable and withering critique of “the puppet head orangutan diaper of malignant rage”. MAGA, indeed.
“Cabaret” has its patchy moments. Tav has had a unique way of pitching - evident on the cover of “Old Fashioned Morphine” - that some might disconcerting. Therein lies much of the charm, of course.
“Red Vienna” is an ode to his adopted home that sounds clunky at first listen and then overblown, but it also has a lyrical sting in its tail. The digital only instrumental, “The World We Knew”, or the lyric-less album track "Master of Chaos", on the other hand, could permeate the soundtracks of shopping malls all over the world without ruffling feathers, which would be a nicely subversive touch.
There’s no pretending that “Cabaret of Daggers” isn’t as eclectic as fuck and the latest twist in a career littered with detours and diversions into some strange places. That’s also why you’ll need to move fast if you’re a fan.