Off the Job (self-released)
San Diegans—or at least those with slightly more esoteric record collections than average—like to claim musicians like Frank Zappa and Tom Waits as products of our city. Those are half-truths at best. Sure, these hall-of-famers spent a little time here, but not really enough to be called San Diego musicians. And that's fine—in the 1970s, going to Los Angeles or New York was almost a necessity if you wanted to start a career with a record label.
But it's not like San Diego hasn't produced its share of musical weirdos, like singer / songwriter Don Forla, whose new album, Off the Job, is an embarrassment of lo-fi riches.
Forla is a scruffy boho blues artist in the vein of Waits or, in his more peculiar moments, Captain Beefheart. But there aren't many mathematically befuddling moments à la Trout Mask Replica here. Forla's oddball fuzzbox stomps are consistently catchy and accessible slabs of riffs and howls. His melodies often find a happy middle between jaunty and eerie, like the highlight "Give Up Yer Dog." Elsewhere, he delivers a western ballad fit for a campfire sing-along with "Where the West isn't Tainted."
Of the 12 songs on Off the Job, half of them never make it to the two-minute mark. But the album's brevity doesn't necessarily reflect the breadth of Forla's ideas. In fact, some of the shortest tracks are some of the best. The instrumental opener, "Cadmium Blues," is only 66 seconds long, but it's also the rare time when Forla lets the space in his music do much of the talking. By contrast, the quick gallop of "Sleep S'more" is essentially a punk song without a drum kit.
I first heard Forla's music during CityBeat's Great Demo Review earlier this year, and at the time, I could hear the promise of great things to come. Off the Job builds on that promise with an even stronger set of songs, which breezes by in less than 30 minutes. It's an impressive debut—and a reminder that San Diego has plenty of talented, homegrown weirdos to call its own.