Originally from Santa Barbara, California, singer-keyboardist-songwriter Kristian Hoffman began his musical career in New York’s Mumps (with high school friend Lance Loud of original sin reality TV show An American Family infamy), a group which never issued an album until its recorded oeuvre was collected many years later in Fatal Charm. Hoffman also did time in James White’s band and then formed and led the Swinging Madisons to play humorous rock for hipsters. The five songs on that group’s 12-inch showcase his penchant for sardonic social commentary, à la Tom Lehrer, and unlikely rearrangements of such familiar tunes as “Volare” and a rockabilly rendition of Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” The disc also includes three originals, the best of which is the rueful “My Mediocre Dream.”
Hoffman subsequently relocated to Los Angeles, where he joined Congo Norvell and then launched a solo career which has encompassed solo folk-pop (I Don’t Love My Guru Anymore) and charming, effervescent rock-pop (Earthquake Weather, produced and played on by frequent studio compadre Earle Mankey). Hoffman’s magnum opus, however, is &, a self-willed all-star collabo collection of his originals performed with Russell Mael (Sparks), Anna Waronker (that dog), Stew (the Negro Problem), Rufus Wainwright, Paul Zone (ex-Fast), Van Dyke Parks, El Vez, Michael Quercio (ex-Three O’Clock/Permanent Green Light), Darian Sahanaja (Wondermints, Brian Wilson’s band), Maria McKee, Steven McDonald (Redd Kross), Ann Magnuson (the actress who was once in Bongwater) and Lydia Lunch. Is that eclectic enough for ya? Waronker brings a Bangles tone to “Get It Right This Time,” while Stew’s rendition of the Mumps’ “Anyone but You” does right by an old song. Zone’s dramatic whimsy makes the theatrical “Series of You’s” fascinating, and Sahanaja brings a delectable light touch to “Palace of Corn,” an inexplicable lyric that runs completely aground in this excruciating, but perhaps knowing, vegetative verse: “When faced with verses like these, who’d not be forlorn / Even the semen that stains my dreams dries to the color of corn.”
Hoffman has also worked as a sideman for Dave Davies, Lunch and El Vez.