Material: Morty Shallman is a storyteller. His songs are sequential chapters from a self-made genre that he has labeled “Literary Pop.” His new album, Pop Fiction, is essentially the re-imagining of his “coming of age story” in Chicago, his intention for an encore career as a novelist and his appreciation for the peculiar. Structurally, Shallman’s new songs combine musical theater with pop music in a manner similar to Green Day’s American Idiot album and Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon (End of Day) album.
Musicianship: In the true fashion of a creative author, Shallman added a disruptive narrative to the commonality of his subject matter at Bar Lubitsch. Instead of tantalizing his live audience with the expected pop-rock and dance-rock aspects of his most recent studio album, he transposed his compositions from Pop Fiction into a lengthy folk-rock set. In this particular setting, the tracks from his new album resounded from his acoustic guitar like music by Adam Duritz (from the Counting Crows) and Jack Johnson. Shallman’s vocal tone can be compared to singer-songwriters such as Elvis Costello and Jason Mraz.
Performance: Shallman’s nine-song setlist was punctuated with clever spoken-word interludes and a humorous dialogue with audience members. The Illinois native played the entire show as a soloist. This would have been a great opportunity for Shallman to use his impressive creativity to take his listeners down an unfamiliar path in his music. Perhaps an emotional state of mind where he exposes his onlookers to his grief, sadness and anger. Those were the only elements missing from his enjoyable presentation.
Summary: The congested airwaves of pop culture will always find a niche for musicians who can create commercial-friendly material that appeals to the masses. Morty Shallman has the resourcefulness and talent to charm a wide variety of listeners with his brand of “narrative concept” albums. However, a stream of happy-go-lucky songs can become a dangerous pigeonhole that restricts eclectic artists like Shallman from displaying the diversity of their raw inventiveness. His recent collaborations with esteemed record producers Jeff Blue and Steve Dresser are almost certain to add more emotional range to the quality of his well-written pop songs.