When I met Don Lennon three years ago, he sat across a table from me for nearly an hour and hardly cracked a smile. Perusing the few press photos that exist of the guy, one would be forgiven for wondering whether he’s ever smiled at all. Which is why it’s amusing that Routine (Martin Philip), the fourth solo album from the erstwhile Bostonian — you may remember him from The Umpteens, but probably don’t — is so preoccupied with comedy. Lennon is no stranger to themed records. His first, Maniac (1997) was more or less about college. His second, Don Lennon (1999) was more or less about himself. His third, Downtown (2002), with its pokes at Dave Matthews Band and Lenny Kravitz, and its paeans to Bongwater and John Cale, was a sly musical/pop-cultural critique.
But comedy? One fears that, were Don to unleash an uproarious belly laugh, his stony visage might crack and fall off. But if there’s such of thing as the opposite of a clown crying on the inside, Don Lennon is it. He keeps a straight face while delivering lines like: "If you have to do a pratfall / If you have to use a prop / A lot of comics think that’s cheating / That’s why they all hate Carrot Top." Local producer Pete Weiss has called Lennon’s oeuvre "double reverse ironic with a twist," and indeed it’s sometimes hard to decipher just what the guy is getting at in these breezy, gently anthemic pop gems. He may be singing about prop comedy and sketch shows and slapstick on "My Routine" and "What SNL Stands For" and "Last Comic Standing" (this latter a meditation on the life and legacy of John Ritter), but if this guy's being funny, he’s meta on Kaufman-esque level. (Andy and Charlie.) And if that wasn’t enough, Routine has a subplot about trying to find a job. "My Resume" is a crystalline swirling reverie, looking back on a hapless CV — Stop & Shop, landscaping, a bookstore — that was short on work experience but long on life experience. And "He Created A Monster" is about, well, Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor. Duh.
Diffident Don Lennon doesn’t play around these parts much. He’s had trouble in the past fitting into the cliquish Boston music scene. (He wrote a song about it on Downtown.) But he’s back in town to perform at ZuZu tonight. [More details]
— Mike Miliard
LISTEN: Don Lennon, "My Resume" (mp3)LISTEN: to crappier rip of that song and stream stuff at his MySpace page