Parthenon Huxley

  • Parthenon Huxley
  • Sunny Nights (Columbia) 1988 
  • P. Hux
  • Deluxe (Black Olive)) 1995 
  • Live in Your Living Room (self-released) 2001 
  • Purgatory Falls (Nine Eighteen) 2001 
  • Everything's Different Now (self-released) 2004 
  • P. Hux in Your Parlour (self-released) 2004 
  • Homemade Spaceship: The Music of ELO Performed by P. Hux (Lakeshore) 2005 
  • Orchestra
  • No Rewind (self-released) 2001 

Not his real name; the Parthenon bit may be a tip of the hat to his high school days in Greece. On his debut, Sunny Nights, Huxley engages in thoughtful whimsy (“Between the sacred and the profane / Runs a crooked yellow line / You dance around from lane to lane…”). The music is power pop that’s equally skewed, though not equally effective; its cleverness tends to overpower melodies that seem to deserve better. (He co-produced with David Kahne.)

Huxley puttered his way around the Los Angeles pop scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, garnering a host of odd credits, including drumming on XTC’s Oranges and Lemons and co-writing songs on A Man Called E with the guy who formed the Eels. He also pops up on records by Sara Hickman and Foreigner. Now, that’s diversity!

Adopting the presciently Diddyesque nickname P. Hux for his power-pop trio, Huxley released the charming Deluxe in 1995. The record is a vaguely thematic exploration of his arrival in Los Angeles and romance with Janet Heaney, a screenwriter. The songs are uniformly strong, from the celebration of “Simple Things” (and “One More Day in the Life”) to the tough “Every Minute.” The themes are rarely complicated, but the sentiments are honest, the lyrics clever and the tunes catchy. Listen carefully for faint quotations — lyrical and melodic — of the Beatles and other heroes. The closest power-pop comparison is with Richard X. Heyman’s Cornerstone, although Huxley favors less ornate, more straightforward arrangements. At 34 minutes, the album comes and goes quickly but makes a fine impression.

Huxley and Heany married in the 1990s; her struggle with, and eventual death from, cancer are the theme of 2001’s Purgatory Blues. The opening “I Loved Everything” brutally describes their world falling apart. “The car’s a wreck and the yard’s a mess / There’s a thread hanging off of your favorite dress.” “Belief” and “Chordofthelord” are elegiac mourning. Drummer Ric Menck of Velvet Crush and violinist Mik Kaminsky of Electric Light Orchestra guest.

Live in Your Living Room and P. Hux in Your Parlour are both low-key acoustic performances, with no overlapping songs. You have to love a tune called “David Bowie Cries for No One.”

Huxley now tours with three original members of Electric Light Orchestra as the Orchestra. The ensemble visits such unlikely locales as Ufa (Siberia) as well as Europe. Not satisfied with note-perfect renditions of ELO hits, however, Huxley made them his own on Homemade Spaceship: The Music of ELO Performed by P. Hux. Yes, that includes “Evil Woman,” “Do Ya” and the others. This eyebrow-raising concept album is really one for the fans. Whose fans, though, is a bit hard to say.

[Jim Green / Michael Zwirn]

See also: Eels