THE CHANDLER TRAVIS PHILHARMONIC
You can argue all you want that Chandler has an unimpressive vocal range, or that his multiple-personality disorder Dixieland sometimes verges on miasmic and bizarre, or that his serial release of 24 CDs was self-indulgent, or that his studio work seems padded with three-quarters-realized ideas, in which classical simplicity and sheer songwriting talent are often buried beneath mounds of instrumental tomfoolery. Or that the band sounds an awful lot like The Kinks circa Muswell Hillbillies (“My Old Man”), or XTC circa Oranges and Lemons (the instrumentally brilliant and lyrically witty “Village of the Darned”).
But take “Weasel Don’t Be Mean,” an intriguing mix of Andy Partridge and Don Cherry. Take “…Or Alabama Either,” which belongs on a high-quality jazz anthology. Or “Not Unhappy,” an instant classic on par with “Listen, People” by the Young Rascals. Say what you will about TCTP, they are frighteningly versatile, and many of their arrangements are almost symphonically meticulous and complex (when they are not indulging in free jazz monstrosities like “Mothra,” or the insanely cracked “Fluffy”). They may maul a multitrack studio like it’s a cheap toy, but at least they manhandle it inventively, if, sometimes, perhaps a tad too ingeniously. (Francis DiMenno)