Cody Chestnutt – The Headphone Masterpiece

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

Recorded on a simple four-track with a microphone and a bunch of instruments to hand, Cody Chesnutt’s audaciously-titled debut album is an intriguing, sprawling collection of lo-fi tunes that diarises the singer’s thoughts since the collapse of his previous band The Crosswalk.

Coming across two CDs, the album’s 36 tracks gleefully transcend genres and rules with wilful abandon, taking in hip-hop, r & b, rock, jazz and reggae, and clocking in at everything from five minutes to mere seconds. Chesnutt’s voice, a tender warm falsetto throughout, evokes the likes of Marvin Gaye or Prince, while his funky homemade beats are augmented with some satisfyingly deep electro bass on THE WORLD IS COMING TO MY PARTY, sinister Portishead-style ambience on JUICIN’ THE DARK, and saxophone on SERVE THIS ROYALTY.

While some of themes either have a heart-warming innocence (UP IN THE TREEHOUSE; DADDY’S BABY) or involve Chesnutt serenading the object of his desire (MICHELLE; CAN’T GET NO BETTA’), he isn’t averse to throwing in some surprises, such as SMOKE AND LOVE, an ode to weed, muckabout tracks like FAMILY ON BLAST, and the hilarious, expletive-laden BITCH, I’M BROKE.

Bizarrely, he does have a tendency to throw in the occasional “bitch” and “nigger” here and there (check the unusually aggressive WAR BETWEEN THE SEXES), which sits at odds with the romantic nature of the rest of the material, and the generally happy-clappy “praise God and let’s all learn to love each other” message. However, tracks like SOMEBODY’S PARENT and 6 SECONDS have a naked honesty that is all too rare in music these days.

The album comes with the video for LOOK GOOD IN LEATHER, complete with a “making of” that follows the same DIY ethic as the record. Definitely a record to inspire hope in bedroom musicians everywhere.

4 stars