By Eleni P. Austin
What did you do this morning? How did you start your day? Brush your teeth, wash your face, maybe eat some breakfast, catch up on the day’s headlines? In that time, Fernando Perdomo has written and recorded one, or possibly two new albums.
Equal parts Energizer Bunny and Musical Mad Hatter, the Miami, Florida native became obsessed with music as a kid. Throughout high school he was part of two prestigious music programs, the Classical Guitar Ensemble and the Rock Ensemble. He made his bones playing in a series of bands and forged enduring friendships with like-minded players Chris Price and Roger Houdaille. Pretty soon he was earning his keep as a musician for hire. In 2012, he relocated to Los Angeles and reconnected with his pal, Chris Price.
Once he arrived in the Golden State, Fernando hit the ground running. In the last decade he has collaborated with heroes like Todd Rundgren, Emit Rhodes (R.I.P.) and Linda Perhacs, along with well-known musicians like Fiona Apple, Jakob Dylan and Sam Moore, half of the legendary Soul duo, Sam & Dave.
He’s been pretty prolific, recording several well-received solo EPs and long-players throughout the years, including Golden Hour, Zebra Crossing and Starcaster. He’s also released a series of instrumental albums entitled Out To Sea, (four volumes thus far), that take a deep dive into his beloved Prog-Rock genre.
2022 has seen him leapfrog from one musical adventure to the next. He produced Someone/Anyone?, a star-studded tribute to Todd Rundgren’s watershed double-album, Something/Anything? He also produced and played on the latest records from Nine Mile Station and Life On Mars. Currently, there are three more all-star tribute albums in the works. He’s also teamed with superstar drummer, Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Beck, Bogert & Appice, Rod Stewart), for a forthcoming project pithily entitled Appice Perdomo.
Somehow, in the midst of all these commitments he found time to play guitar in Marshall Crenshaw’s current touring band, which he characterized as “a lifelong dream…. I was going through a major MC phase when I got my first car, so, I will always associate his music with freedom.” Most recently, he was asked to sit in with Yes, at Alan White’s memorial. “I played ‘Roundabout’ with them….still shaking from that.” Despite all this frenzied activity, he still carved out time to write, record and play all the instruments on his latest opus, Jangle. The opening two tracks get the record off to a rollicking start. A pummeling drum fusillade connects with ringing guitars, sinewy bass lines and a tambourine shake on “Keep Your Chin Up Girl.” Byrds-y and Beatlesque, the anthemic chorus offers up some unsolicited advice; “Keep your chin up girl, keep your chin up girl, cause the world is a more beautiful place, when everyone can see your face.” There’s a seismic shift on the verse, as drums pivot to a cantilevered beat and guitars snake between, each attempt to turn that frown upside down.
Intentions are set and goals are met on “Girl With A Record Collection.” Kaleidoscopic guitars, rumbling bass and rapid-fire handclaps are wed to a meaty, beaty, big and bouncy backbeat. Instead of looking for love in all the wrong places, the lyrics zero in on the essentials; “I want a girl with a record collection… I want a girl that inspires me, I want a girl with a sense of direction, I want a girl with cool imperfections, I want a girl, I want a girl that desires me.” Twinkly bells feather over the infectious chorus, as Fernando reveals his inner record-nerd; “Blow me away with your 45’s, blow me away, they’re all alphabetized!”
Overall, the album mines the Power Pop/Psychedelia playbook with crisp efficiency, but just when you think you have it all figured out, Fernando flips the script on a couple of cuts. First up, is a beatific take on the Henry Mancini classic, “Moon River.” Even as the Rickenbacker jingle-jangles, Fernando wraps his willowy croon around Johnny Mercer’s wistful lyrics “Two drifters, off to see the world, there’s such a lot of world to see, we’re after the same rainbow’s end, my Huckleberry friend.” Despite his buoyant arrangement, the song retains its melancholy heft.
Then there’s the title-track, a Countrified instrumental, powered by 12-string guitars that peal and chime, loose-limbed bass lines and a locomotive beat. Clocking in at just over two minutes, it’s a tightrope walk between ethereal and earthbound.
If the Boss sounds of AM Pop radio were still a thing, the best songs here could sandwich comfortably between epochal hits from the Byrds, The Beatles, Buffalo Springfield and Love. Take “Lazy,” the descending guitar note that open the song actually share some musical DNA with “You Bowed Down,” a song Elvis Costello wrote expressly for the Byrds de facto leader, Roger McGuinn. While the lyrics advocate an indolent day, luxuriating in bed; “I know you have something to do, but the bed’s way too big without you, please come back to bed, rest with me instead, nothing can keep us away, let’s blow off all of the day, let’s just be lazy today,” the industrious arrangement and indefatigable instrumentation tells a different story. Sun-dappled guitars cascade atop ticklish percussion, thrumming bass and a clackity backbeat. Really, who is he kidding? Fernando is about as lazy as the Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil.
“Fill My Sky” effortlessly connects the dots between Folk Rock, Power Pop and Psychedelia. The opening drum salvo pays a swift and sly homage to the iconic Hal Blaine kick that jumpstarts the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” before ceding the spotlight to meandering guitar licks, phased bass and stacked vocals. Chimeric lyrics ask for the impossible; “Can you fix my wrongs, can you make it right, can you save my life?” But things get positively lysergic on the break as serpentine guitars wrap around hypnotic bass and a tilt-a-whirl rhythm, just before a squally guitar solo exits stage left.
Meanwhile, “Photographers In Love” displays the sort of whimsy that Robyn Hitchcock pioneered first with The Soft Boys and The Egyptians, and then solo. Technicolor guitars riffs ride roughshod over rotogravure bass lines and a stutter-step beat. Lyrics frame a polychromatic snap-shot of a couple of besotted shutterbugs; “Photographers in love, they photograph each other, in love with one and other, photographers in love/He shoots in black and white, she likes to shoot in color, they complement each other, photographers in love.”
Finally, in just a few neatly turned phrases, “Andrea’s Fault” deftly juxtaposes a flailing romance with a seismically shifty fissure. This time the shimmery jingle-jangle is tethered to barbed wire bass lines and a giddy-up beat. Fernando quietly confides, “My heartache is like an earthquake, it’s Andrea’s fault, she controls it all.” Despite the lyrical sad-sackery, the playful arrangement and the acrobatic arpeggios that ping-pong through the break manages to defuse the inevitable emotional delirium tremors.
Other intriguing tracks include “This Can Be You,” and the closer, “California Moon.” The former is an iridescent charmer powered by a tumbling beat, slinky bass and blazing guitars. The latter is, to paraphrase the late, great David Bowie, a bit of a moonage daydream. Spectral guitars cavort across a stratosphere of phantasmic bass lines and a ricocheting backbeat. Much like William Holden and Kim Novak in the film, Picnic, (along with Van Morrison, King Harvest and Thin Lizzy), Fernando is just looking for a bit of moonglow to light the way for romance; “Tonight we dance as one, after the sun has gone down on this beautiful on this beautiful night, California moon is shining on you.”
Chances are, in the time it took for you to read this column, a lightbulb has gone off in Fernando’s head and perhaps he’s mentally creating a film score using only toy pianos. Oh, wait, he already did that! Most likely, something is percolating in that wily mind, guaranteed to delight his passionate fan-base. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and give Jangle a spin. Your ears will thank you.