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Hawksley Workman | For Him and the Girls (Loose)
Opening like an outtake from Jesus Christ Superstar bleeding through into a carnivalesque nod to Adam and the Ants, with a whiff of Bowie floating around somewhere, it's immediately apparent that Toronto's Hawksley Workman isn't about to be shoehorned into anybody else's idea of how a 24-year-old tap dancer should sound. Or at any rate he's going to drag his disparate influences along with him, churning them up and spooning out something immediately familiar but at the same time oblique and fresh as the proverbial daisy. Recorded and played mostly by Hawksley himself, For Him and the Girls is trumpeted by a press release which informs us that, "I was very certainly born and raised on an old highway near a cold, spring-fed lake." It's easy to fear that on the back of this cracked myth-making the music is going to turn out unbearably quirky and cute. But despite flashes of rock opera pomposity and eccentric lines like, "you've got pies in the oven all across the sea", the For Him and the Girls record keeps constant tabs on its heart and sense of romance. When I first heard the timeless punch of the song No Sissies- a two minute pop classic that will soon be appropriated by some duff Hollywood romantic comedy and which I still can't get past without prodding at repeat at least once- I was convinced that I had heard it somewhere before. I hadn't, but it's a song that has dirt under its fingernails, like it's been around for ever. Elsewhere we get the high-kicking ragtime jangle of Sad House Daddy as Hawksley, with an out-of-time urge to entertain, confirms that "we're all good people down here." With the tattered heart of a hopeless romantic and the nimble feet of the floor-sweeper from Bugsy Malone, Hawksley is certain to show you a good time.
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000