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Out for justice

/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

It is not ordinary for a singer-songwriter to declare in the first sentence of the first song of his major label debut that he was recently unable to satisfy his lover, but then again, Ike Reilly is far from the ordinary singer-songwriter.

On his most recent outing, “Sparkle in the Finish,” Reilly once again proclaims his inability to satiate his partner in “Holiday In NY,” but in Ike’s world, there is no such thing as a straight shooter — not even Ike himself. Knowing Ike’s story allows you to peel the mask off of the New York tollbooth worker that our protagonist is so desperately trying to please. And behind that mask lurks a greed-ridden music industry that drives Ike and his dangerous band — now called The Ike Reilly Assassination (The IRA for short, get it?) — to drink and a whole lot more.

Reilly, a former cemetery worker and doorman who hails from Libertyville, IL, was washed with glorious praise from everyone from The St. Paul Pioneer Press to The New York Times and GQ for his first record, “Salesmen and Racists.” Unfortunately, the praise did not translate into the kind of dollars that Republic Records and their parent company Universal were looking for and Ike found himself Wilco’ed right off of the label. The band finds itself born anew on Rock Ridge Records, but fortunately for us, the infectious melodies and dizzying rhymes of Reilly’s first album remain.

Cueing the laser up on this new collection will put you right back where “Salesmen” left off. You are once again riding in the shotgun seat of Reilly’s El Camino, blasting down a coked-up highway, running down cappuccino drinkers and hanging out at underground bars that bands like The Strokes would kill to know the address to. The driver rocks and raps and rants and rolls at a furious pace, and the band in the back handles the burnout, straight-away rockers and the slow-zone tavern sing-alongs with equal skill.

Right out of the gate, Ike blows plenty of exhaust in the faces of his doubters on the leadoff cut, “I Don't Want What You Got (Goin On).” On this track in particular, Reilly is able to showcase his nimble rap delivery, effortlessly name checking Ludacris and Jerry Lee Lewis in the same sentence. But the niceties are scrapped in the chorus where Ike seethes at those who think that “cars and girls and drinks and songs make this world spin around.” He questions the list by vehemently asking “what about love and what about trust,” in the same nasty tone that Elvis Costello once inquired about peace, love and understanding.

The fury continues for the rest of the ride, with the band out on a rock ’n’ roll mission to prove the record execs wrong.  Along the way, we encounter dead-beat dads, moms on ecstasy, references to Johnny Cash songs, out-of-state plates and underage dates, all seen through the no-nonsense shades of our faithful driver. We even run into Reilly’s true self as he crows, “I'm only in it for the money, but I'll take a little glory too,” over a spooky blues riff on “Ballad of the Choir Boy Band Robber” that recalls vintage Screaming Jay Hawkins.

The characters of the songs are everyday degenerates, but Reilly never passes judgment on them. He keeps you down in the dirt with him as he tells their tales. In “The Boat Song (We're Getting Loaded),” he has hopes of conveniently packing the derelicts onto an ocean liner.  “Take the vulgar boatmen and the drunken showmen and the Willie Lomans of rock n' roll, and put 'em on a ship,” he sings. But the beauty of Ike is that if that ship was about to set sail, he would jump right onto the wretched Noah's ark. Who else would he write about if not the lowlife everyman? 

He writes what he knows, with the charm of the scruffy, smart barroom champion that we have all ran in to at one point in our lives. He is the guy who mumbles a clever head-scratcher to you in the bathroom at closing time, and by the time you figure out what he said, you see him leaving the bar with the finest looking gal in the place. You wanna be like him, but you can’t. There is only one Ike.

For more information, contact http://www.ikereilly.com/.

Email the author at: rabramson22@hotmail.com.