(As published in Real Groove ... )
Music for TV Dinners
What hath Esquivel wrought? Scamp Records for one thing, the label devoted to releasing both the zippiest (John Barry) and the blandest (Martin Denny) of that hi-fi-testing, pre-rock instrumental genre currently known as "Space Age bachelor-pad music." Now, still eager to prove that every good niche deserves a scratch, they offer this sixteen-track collection of "production music"--that "[b]right, snappy, highly motivational and usually anonymous" music (to quote the liner notes) that "permeated television, films, and commercials" in the '50s and '60s. In other words, music to shop by. Surprisingly, instead of functioning as merely ironic commentaries on the soullessness of post-WW II consumerism or some such, these pizzazzy little ditties actually make buying stuff in the pre-mall era sound like more fun than buying stuff now. Granted, the canned, socially utilitarian nature of this aural wallpaper doesn't always make for compelling listening, but "Shopping Spree" evokes North by Northwest, "Toys for Boys" and "Curley Shirley" kick (or at least kiss) Herb Alpert's brass, and "Sleepy Shores" beats "Nadia's Theme" at its own daydreams-of-the-ordinary-soap-opera-watching-housewife game hands down.