Vanity Set Little Stabs of Happiness

After spending years on percussion for the Bad Seeds, Jim Sclavunos has obviously learned well from lead Seed Nick Cave. Sclavunos’ Vanity Set has the same jaded, scathing, whiskey-drenched wit and gloomy sensibilities as his original act, but he injects an odd goofiness that makes it his own. The title track, a lesson in rock’n’roll irony, shows the clever cynicism that makes paying close attention to the lyrics essential. "Little Demons,” a swaggering, cabaret-style number lets us hear Sclavunos’ talent as an alliterating wordsmith, if not sounding a little too Cave-y to be entirely excused from aping. Anyways, it’s an enjoyable listen. While gripping rather clumsily onto the gritty side of poignant, this disc would be suitable company to a night spent slumped on a bar with a bottle of cheap scotch or slamming back pints of Guinness with pals. In fact, some manner of drink is heartily recommended. By track seven, "She Came out of Nowhere,” our Jimbo is sounding as schmaltzy as Frank-N-Furter on cheap gin — funny for the first minute, not so much for the last few. While it’s hard not to incessantly compare this release with those under his former Bad Seed title, it’s a decent work in its own right and hell, Cave would never have tubas and sousaphones on his records. Things wind up on an upbeat, if not irritating note with "The Bell Song.” For those who like Nick Cave but wish he could crack a smile once in awhile, this one’s for you. (Naked Spur)