The Mumbles can be forgiven for accidentally borrowing their album’s title and cover concept from the subdudes, whose own Annunciation was released in 1994. But the subdudes never wrote a song about the street in question; the Mumbles have a title track that makes the most of the spiritual implications of its name. Keith Burnstein’s lyric sums up a moment of late-night personal catharsis, and the second-line horns push the song to a big uplift. The local color is there, but it’s still a solid pop song, one that sounds quite a bit like Squeeze in its prime.
A duo of singer/keyboardist Burstein and drummer Ethan Shorter with outside help, the Mumbles recently moved to New Orleans from Brooklyn. They’re still in love with their new home as the disc’s many homages bear out. The instrumental “Notas Azules” salutes the Meters (and includes a fleeting “Cissy Strut” quote in case you missed the point). Dr. John gets a stylistic nod on “Saints Win,” whose lyric takes that victory as a good omen for the band’s move; it also has a nice salute to Brooklyn DJ Solange “Reverend Soul” Raulston, who died in a bike accident after befriending the band. Sophisticated hipsters from other towns show up in the mix as well, with “Hate Yourself” evincing Morphine’s baritone sax and swagger, and tricky Steely Dan chord changes showing up more than once.
Less successful is “Eden”, a bit of white rap that smacks of G. Love, down to a regrettable “Everybody gots a good thing” in the chorus. But that’s the exception on an album whose songwriting is usually strong enough to hold all the influences. Their radio single “Newspaper” (which appears in two versions, with and without the f-word) has loads of arrangement touches to grab your attention, but it wouldn’t mean a thing without the mile-wide chorus hook.