Richard Barone/James Mastro
Finding themselves with a heap of songs that didn’t seem right for their band, Barone and Mastro of the Bongos (Hoboken, N.J.’s finest) hiked themselves to Mitch’s Drive-In Studio, the new recording mecca run by Mitch Easter in Winston-Salem, N.C. With help from Easter on assorted keyboards, guitars and drums, the pair played all instruments and produced the ensuing LP themselves. It’s a dandy—intimate, varied in mood, consistently melodic. Sixties pop and acoustic-folk seem to be the raw material fueling a number of bands (like R.E.M.) in the current “progressive pop” revival, and the Bongos and Barone/Mastro should be included among them. In Nuts and Bolts, each has devoted a full side to his own compositions. On his side Mastro included a cover version of Tommy Roe’s Dizzy, one of the frothier hits of the ’60s, but in Mastro’s hands, the froth and ingenuousness stay fresh. Barone’s side starts ebulliently with I’ve Got a Secret, turns lyrical in Flew a Falcon and continues to deepen in meaning and texture in the next three songs, My Sin, Five Years Old and Lost Like Me. Though effective, the side-ending Jacob’s Ladder seems too deeply indebted to the Talking Heads. It’s a minor flaw in light of the power and charm of the rest of the side. Keep an eye on Barone.