It’s a good bet that whoever says there’s no such thing as an original idea — in music or otherwise — has not taken a good close listen to Jonathan Spottiswoode. The London-raised performer has a popular following in New York City, but many might not know what to make of the gravelly-voiced singer-songwriter’s theatrical rock adventures, touched as they are with elements of jazz, folk, Broadway and Leonard Cohen-style poetic musings. Have I lost you yet?

If you’re still reading, you may just be the target audience for ”Wild Goosechase Expedition” (Old Soul Records), an ambitious, far-reaching 17-track song cycle that’s ostensibly about a tour gone bad but can be seen as nothing short of an analogy for life itself (the ”Wild Goosechase” of the title). Or maybe they’re just a bunch of songs — with Spottiswoode, you never know.

Spottiswoode breaks the album into four sections, kicking off with the innocuously titled ”Setting Out” and gradually working toward the much darker ”Starvation and Surrender” segment that closes out the record. Things start out cheerfully enough with ”Beautiful Monday,” with its jaunty pop-single melody and upbeat if narcissistic plea that ”everybody look at me, I’m beautiful.” But things are already getting darker by the third track, ”Purple River Yellow Sun,” which sounds sort of like a twisted psychedelic outtake from ”Showboat” — and I mean that as a compliment.

The album continues on from there in what really is an expedition through a jungle of themes and styles, all with no small dose of drama and humor — on ”I’d Even Follow You to Philadelphia,” Spottiswoode croaks out what may be the best love song ever to channel the spirit of W.C. Fields. As original as the collection is, though, it’s eminently listenable — both as an album and, more surprisingly, as a collection of kicking individual tracks.

The album may be too long, particularly as the four-song ”Starvation and Surrender” section — capped by the pretty but laconic 9-minute ”You Won’t Forget Your Dream” — winds its way to a close. He might have been better off ending with the clever, Dylan-esque ”Wake Me Up When It’s Over,” as trenchant a commentary on succumbing to the pressures of everyday life that’s ever been sung. ”Wake me up when it’s over, and tell me what I did … just before you close the lid,” he sings, and I think he’s only halfways kidding.

In an era of popular music that’s invariably pre-packaged and easily labeled, ”Wild Goosechase Expedition” is a small miracle — and a trip worth taking. Pack your bug spray.

About the Author

Pete Chianca

Pete Chianca is a humor and music writer and author of Glory Days: Springsteen's Greatest Albums. He lives north of Boston with his wife, two kids and an indeterminate number of dogs and cats. Read more Pete at Pete's Pop Culture, Parenting & Pets Blog.

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