Rhythm & Views

The Chris Stamey Experience

Chris Stamey's high, slightly reedy singing voice is the perfect rock 'n' roll vehicle. He sounds like an arch choirboy, juggling just the right amounts of weary sarcasm and youthful earnestness.

And Stamey's latest album, A Question of Temperature, finds the former dB's singer-songwriter in nearly perfect rock 'n' roll form, balancing sentimentality with guitar noise, mixing adoring covers with clever originals, throwing in dance tunes, a reprise, an epic rocker, a novelty instrumental, a 30-second bonus ditty, a hidden track and a dissonant minute-and-a-half intro.

On board as Stamey's collaborative partners: None other than Yo La Tengo, a trio that has spent long years honing its collective pop smarts, experimental leanings and canny grasp of the quiet-loud dynamic. Add to that jazz keyboardist Tyson Rogers, and you've got an all-star band that can do no wrong.

The cover tunes manage to be both faithful to their sources and still inventive, exploring a range of genres from rock to R&B to country. "McCauley Street (Let's Go Downtown)" is an 11-minute epic in which careful character studies bookend an extended middle section full of feedback and distortion that is artfully cathartic. The tension and release of the music will bring to mind tunes by the Velvet Underground and the Dream Syndicate.

A couple of instrumentals help the dance groove quotient: the '60s-style garage rave-up "Come On" and the faux-corny "Dr. Strangelove's Assistant or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Marimba."

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