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Mr. Croon and Warble

Richard Album
Richard Album

It takes chutzpah for any guitarist to compare his band’s singer to Elvis Presley. But Shelby Turner, of Chicago-based post-punk and kitsch-pop act Richard Album, is willing to go there.

“Maybe in Eugene his name isn’t as well known as Elvis,” Turner says of Richard Album, “but after Jan. 2 …” Turner trails off to heighten the sense of intrigue.

“He really commands a stage,” Turner tells EW. “He really loves the spotlight. Fifties crooners, Elvis Presley through David Bowie — these larger-than-life people; he considers himself to be the next generation.”

But what takes even more chutzpah? Waxing poetic about your own skills as if you were talking about someone else. In fact, band frontman Turner seems to take his on-stage Richard Album persona so seriously he refers to the lead singer in the third-person while claiming to be simply the band's guitarist. Is it schtick, or something else? A brilliant performance art project? Or a kind of rock 'n' roll identity dysphoria? Whatever the reason, the band is worth a listen.

Richard Album’s aesthetic, typified by the band’s album covers, is usually just the singer alone, recalling a pre-Beatles era of teen pop idols. And the music’s celebration of all things fey and twee is along the lines of UK acts like Belle & Sebastian or Pulp. 

There’s also a naïve, Jonathan Richman quality to Richard Album’s free associative lyrical style and vocals, which is crooning at times and warbling at others.

Turner describes Richard Album’s 2016 release, Richard Goes Cold, as “spiritual New Wave. We started off doing power-pop garage rock ‘n’ roll,” he says. “It’s gotten a little more mature and serious.”

“There’s more of a New Wave, ’80s post-punk influence,” Turner explains of his band’s latest material, “and jangly guitars over the top of it. The lyrics have gotten reverent, reflective.”.

Richard Album plays with Chicago lo-fi indie project Deadbeat and Eugene psych-rock band Sacred Trees, 9 pm Monday, Jan. 2, at Old Nick’s; FREE, 21-plus.