Friendly Rich The Friendly Rich Show

"Friendly Rich” Marsella is an endearing force of nature and his latest Lollipop People record is dark, demented, and utterly fun. A loosely-knit vaudevillian, musical revue, The Friendly Rich Show is the disconcerting soundtrack to Marsella’s mind, mixing satire and farce with rage spun into absurdity. Few people could segue out of the brilliant blender of a theme song that opens this record into "Alberta Wedding Song,” a jaunty oompah-pah about same-sex rights in Canada. Marsella’s carnival music recalls outsiders such as Tom Waits and Frank Zappa; like Waits, Marsella embraces the creative freedom of Beat poetry and troubadour chic and like Zappa, his sense of fun is laced with scorn and bite that can send songs in surprising directions. In his critique of the U.S. in "Friendly Fire,” playful horns and strings augment Marsella’s suburban perspective of world affairs, eventually building into a surreal bossa nova groove underneath screams for the heads of Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. There are vivid tales like "Magnified Lyle,” which deliciously send up the state of the world and abstract portraits like "Mama’s Boy,” whose oddly empty depiction renders its musical arrangement thoughtfully intriguing. The wistful whistling/horrific screams musical call-and-response that opens the Italian folk instrumental "Pretty Ugly” is more spectacle than substance but the adaptation of Verdi’s "Lacrymosa” is actually quite stirring. Friendly Rich continues to be a "light at the end of the tunnel” writer, absorbing infuriating and depressing aspects of the world and turning them on their head to reveal their inherent truth and, occasionally, ludicrousness. As such, The Friendly Rich Show is a bleak variety show wrung through a filter of hope and joy. (Independent)