I was introduced to Jeff Michaels by his U.S. based PR company. I confess that I had not come across his music before but hey we all like to hear new things so I popped over to Jeff’s website to check out his bio and learn a little about him before settling down to check out his new album.
It seems that even if you aren’t familiar with Jeff’s name, there is a good chance you have heard his music as his songs have been licensed to over a dozen television shows. Jeff was also a member of pop band Luce, whose music appeared on a couple of major movie soundtracks.
On the first listen I was reminded very much of Billy Joel and maybe Paul Simon. Michaels songs have that sort of american piano soft-rock feel that Joel was so famous for and with frequent references to “high-school” romance and U.S. pop culture i initially thought that Townie Paradise was going to prove to be a sort of schmooze “all-american, sweet as cherry pie” sort of a record. You know what I mean, inoffensive, pleasant background music but hardly thought provoking or challenging.
It took a couple of listens before I caught on that Jeff Michaels does not fall into that category at all. The soft-rock patina hides an altogether deeper story. One that is not afraid to lift the rocks and stare into the underbelly of hatred, prejudice and discrimination that seems to be so prevalent in today’s society. His songs are also self deprecating, humorous and at times political. In fact the humour is so good that at times I found myself getting some very odd looks as I giggled to myself whilst out walking the dogs.
Townie Girls is an amusing social commentary but it is when you get to “Same F’ing Sun” that you really begin to understand where Michaels is coming from. The song talks about the social exclusion experienced by minority groups, even going so far as to drawing comparisons between social exclusion and the holocaust.
“Top of the world” draws some delicious imagery when it has you “kicking the monsters back under the bed.” There is of course more than passing nod to love’s found and lost, it may seem a little sickly sweet at times but lines like “Thats the kind of love that you don’t F**k with” amused me no end.
After a couple of listens I found myself falling in love with this album. Once I understood the honour in the songs I began to really enjoy it and to listen more intently. Perhaps bizarrely I finished up imagining Michaels as a sort of cross between Billy Joel and Weird Al Yankovic, that image alone makes it worth the effort of getting to know Jeff Michaels and Townie Paradise.
Townie Paradise is self released June 23. You can order the album here and check out a free download too.
If you are so inclined you could support Jeff’s Pledge campaign for this album