Tonio K is one of those artists I had heard a lot about but had never actually heard his music. Thus it was with great anticipation that I listened to his latest release, Rodent Weekend, a collection of odds and ends that never made it onto his earlier albums from the past twenty years. Overall, I can say I was disappointed, though the songs do tend to grow on me with each listen.
Considered one of the music industry's most successful songwriters, Tonio K penning the most played song of 1993 ("Love Is," recorded by Vanessa Williams) and has placed songs with Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville, and Al Green. His predominant style is Stones-influenced, bluesy rock (my tastes run more Beatles, which may account a bit why this CD did not click with me). The earlier songs on the CD especially sound like J. Geils Band rip-offs, with "I'll Wait Here" sporting the main riff from Geils' "Love Stinks", albeit modified...slightly. Most of the songs are lyrically humorous and caustic. The opening song, "The Funky Western Civilization, Phase II" is replete with such lines as "Let us continue to exploit and abuse one another" and "Mars Needs Women" intones "you should apply." "Fools Talk", "New Dark Ages", and "Los Gringos" form a nice trilogy, having almost the exact same sound and feel, although "Los Gringos" is sung entirely in Spanish and is about the luxury of having indoor plumbing. Perhaps the best cut is the sarcastic "I'm Supposed to Have Sex With You" where Tonio K is backed by the band Daniel Amos with David Raven's solid wall of drums. Originally recorded for the 1987 Carl Reiner film Summer School, the song received major airplay in New York and L.A. but by the time the record company released the single, the buzz had passed. Numerous listens to this album find the songs to be well written but there is something lacking in the presentation, something off in his voice or the sound of the guitars. If only he could find and correct that "something" he'd make millions for sure!
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, October 1999.