Former lead singer of NYC’s legendary band the Niagaras is back with
Comic Tales of Tragic Heartbreak –
and their latest release:
One Car Crash-
Support us by downloading tracks on Bandcamp.
On April 15th One Car Crash will be available on itunes.
Take a dash of Herb Albert, a pinch of David Bowie, add a handful of Andy Kaufman, and you’ve got Comic Tales of Tragic Heartbreak – and their new album, One Car Crash. Added bonus? The Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits/Frank O’Hara-inspired lyrics, and tunes like something found on Stiff Records in 1979.
The magic and beauty of Comic Tales of Tragic Heartbreak lies both in the depth of the music and the ability to connect (both emotionally and physically) with the audience.
“You must not try to make love definite. It is the divine accident of life.”
So said the great Sherwood Anderson in his groundbreaking book, Winesburg, Ohio.
Comic Tales of Tragic Heartbreak knows all about accidents. Of birth and place. Of Top-40 radio heard through summer screen windows. Of lonely faces smiling in discos during blizzards. What’s a young criminal to do? Read every book he can get his hands on, play the Breathe Easy Method over and over on a rented trumpet, lose a thousand fistfights till he finally wins one. Ride a stolen bike, hop a Peter Pan bus, grab a hitchhiked ride…something, anything, to get out. Years later, redemption at last. Robert Whaley is just about where he should be. Compared to everyone from David Bowie to David Byrne, he’s been welcoming audiences into a private world of enchantment and debauchery, and oh, the influences are clear: Anderson (words and emotions), Fosse (dance and controlled hysteria), Artaud and O’Hara (poetry, more hysteria).
Whaley had a lot of practice riding the line between rock n’ roll, performance art, and stand up comedy as front man for the Niagaras, a legendary force of Manhattan’s live music scene, back when a wild child could dance on bar tops and swing from light fixtures without getting banned, except for when he was. No wonder the attraction included a salacious following – everyone from Ethan Hawke to Kevin Spacey to the good people in Anthrax.
As a songwriter, Whaley has covered a lot of ground and has shown range through a number of outlets. He cowrote the original score for the feature film, Joe the King, starring Hawke, and has also written for the stage – his rock musical Wrong Way Up ran for months off-Broadway at NYC’s Zipper Theater. He is currently working on Selling Sacred Objects, a musical adaptation of Arnold Bennett’s prescient 1908 novel, Buried Alive.
One Car Crash, the second release from Comic Tales of Tragic Heartbreak, reflects an obsession with pre-1974 soul, 60s garage rock, and the old masters (Rodgers and Hart, Tom Waits, Bill Evans). Jazz pianist Mara Rosenbloom sets the tone with her loose/attacking touch on grand piano and Rhodes. Pete O’Connell lends a sophisticated drive and counterpoint, as both bassist and coarranger. Whaley’s long-time collaborator, lead guitarist and singer, Tony Grimaldi, shines with masterful harmonies and chiming guitar lines. And Chris Schultz, percussionist with Blue Man Group, shimmers, cascades, and of course, rocks.
It’s a wild concoction filled to the brim with nuance and tender-bitter sweetness. Recorded live in the studio with a minimum of overdubs, a maximum of misfit charm, and this in mind:
HERE’S WHAT THE CRITICS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT
Comic Tales of Tragic Heartbreak
“It was a performance Jim Morrison would have loved. Lunacy? Spectacle? And music too?? ”
Rene Chun, New York Times
“…the best show I’ve seen in months. It was a fit of deliberate performance that riveted every eye…”
Dan Aquilante, New York Post
“…A high-turbo blend of manic songs and clever and whacked out improv. Robert Whaley should be a Ritalin poster boy. And I mean that admiringly.”
Cynthia True, Time Out New York
“Sharp-dressed showmanship and sharp-witted pop.”
New Yorker Magazine
“It’s painfully obvious why Robert Whaley is part of one of New York’s longest-running acts. His songs are odd hybrids of Beatles-esque melodies and Zappa-esque rhythms.”
Dawn Eden, New York Press
“Singer/cornetist/clown prince Robert Whaley tosses Bowie/Morrissey and Quentin Crisp into a Ventures blender, adds a dash of grenadine, a splash of mescaline, hits ultra-whip and splurt! It’s all over the ceiling.”
Steve Santos, Alternative Press
“Musicians can get by on mere talent. But beauty turns talent into a luxury. Comic Tales is a handsome quartet who dress like Harry Connick Jr. and sound like a cross between Leonard Cohen and David Byrne.”
Rob Kemp, Musician Magazine
“Stars fall for these guys.”
Candace Bushnell (creator, Sex and the City), Vogue Magazine