Van Dyke Parks has not released an album in so long and is so old, that all of his fans are either dead or have long since moved on. His new album, Songs Cycled (Bella Union), is a sort of continuation from his last original work written 18 years ago, Songs Cycle. Despite a very consistent style and specific vision for this new work, what we actually hear sounds like a lonesome old man looking to make friends with his outdated vaudevillian act. The album is fully loaded with witty and political lyrics, along with both wry and sentimental melodies, unmistakably a classic Van Dyke Parks composition. The only real intriguing aspect of the album is the line up of critiques waiting to praise his ‘theatrical genius’ and ‘re-inovation of the americana music genre’. However, having a formidable career that deserves praise, does not mean you get to crap gold records for the rest of your life.
Songs Cycled is really a collection of musical pieces that Parks has been either sitting on or thinking about over the years. It comes closer to existing as an album of b-sides from the past 40 plus years of his musical career, replete with covers, re-recordings and some new songs. Even though the album sounds like a nostalgic rehashing of Parks style it is really his strict opinion of current musical themes and values. A sort of op-ed piece to what he believes is the true path music should be following, a path however, most people wouldn’t even give the time of day to support. In the end what Van Dyke Parks (an very impressive name, especially as its his birth name) should be focusing his energies on are some of the epic collaborations he has been involved with over the past years, such as helping Joanna Newsom on her acclaimed album Ys and hanging out with bands like Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear. He currently has a handful of tour dates scheduled in both Europe and the States however, I wouldn’t hold your breath on Parks traveling your way anytime soon, it would likely interfere with his afternoon nap schedule.