Independent singer/songwriter Eytan Mirsky is back with his sixth album, Funny Money, available at Bandcamp. Mirsky, whose music generally ranges from a kind of humorous anti-folk to a tuneful power pop, had last released a complete album of new music in 2012 with the well-received Year of the Mouse. Funny Money follows the familiar Mirsky blueprint; tuneful songs ranging from the Stones-ish “I’m Gonna Fight It” to the wistful and funny single, the Van Morrison-ish “You Got It Made”. The lyrics are of a self-deprecating nature common to Mirsky’s music, and feature much of his trademark wordplay. It is, in short, a typical Eytan Mirsky album. This is both a good and bad thing, but overall the album hits most of the right notes.
Musically, Mirsky tends to wear his influences on his sleeve. There is a hint of the Rolling Stones, a taste of Graham Parker, a shade of Van Morrison, a sprinkling of John Mellencamp, and a wisp of Marshall Crenshaw on the album, among a host of other influences, most grounded in the 70’s and 80’s. There’s nothing wrong with this, except that it tempts the listener into a game of “what does this song remind me of?” Mirsky’s vocals tend to sound similar from song to song no matter what he’s singing, which is perhaps his biggest weakness, especially when coupled with his usual nice-guy-probably-doesn’t-get-the-girl lyrics. So, perhaps the worst thing one can say about the album is that it settles into what could be called a very mild-mannered groove, in which the songs are differentiated only by their arrangements.
However, this first impression is assuaged by the quality of the songs themselves, which range from inoffensive to pretty darn good. Aside from the aforementioned album opener, which displays some more grit than one would expect from the singer, other standouts include the melancholy “Watching Dawson’s Creek” and the reggae-rock-flavored “I Don’t Wanna Fall”, all of which benefit from Mirsky’s persona, and all of which have some meat on their bones. The album closer, “Good Hair Day”, has a solid late 70’s new wave vibe to it and shrewd, funny lyrics in which nothing can go wrong as long as his hair holds up. That makes four strong songs out of twelve, songs that grab you on first listen.
As for the other eight songs, they grow on you. The presumed single (if singles still exist in the Bandcamp era) “You Got It Made”, has been kicking around for a couple of years, and Mirsky has honed it into a slide-guitar based power pop song. It is here that Mirsky’s lyrics are perhaps their most biting, even as the singer expresses nothing but the best for his subject. “I Saw Something In You” benefits from its chiming guitars which are vaguely reminiscent of jangle-pop of the 80’s, a sound combined with an almost early-60’s pop sound on “It’s a Jungle Out There”, which works up a nice languid groove. “Plusses and Minuses” is an atmospheric and humanistic number with arguably Mirsky’s best vocals on the album. The title track is a tasty guitar-based number with a good beat. It’s all pleasant stuff, and Mirsky’s persona wins us over in the end.
All of the songs are recorded with what sounds like a full band, although many of the instruments are played by multi-instrumentalist Jon Gordon. A number of tracks feature horns and saxophone, giving the songs a welcome beefiness. There really isn’t a bad moment on the album; if Mirsky seems stuck in one mode, it is a mode that is wholly his. Despite the derivative nature of the arrangements, the album does not lack personality. Nobody is quite working the same side of the street that Mirsky is. It may not be a first-listen grabber, but on second listen the songs begin revealing their charms; the loopy turns of phrase Mirsky favors begin to rise to the surface.
If you liked Year of the Mouse, this is a fine followup. If Mirsky, who is now in his fifties, is unlikely to become a star at this late date, it is still nice to see that he still has the goods to create such a good-natured, well-crafted album as Funny Money.