Thursday, June 2, 2005

Graham Parker wants to set the record straight about his membership in the exclusive “angry young man” club of the 1970s.

“In 1976, the year before my so-called contemporaries [arrived on the scene], I had a whole year to be the angry young man. That’s a long time in the music industry,” says Mr. Parker, who cheerfully adds he used his window by going out “and yelling at people for no particular reason.”

The singer-songwriter from London never matched the sales heights of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, those unnamed contemporaries.

It’s never been for lack of trying.

He has released 15 albums (encompassing live, studio and compilation efforts) in the last 10 years alone, and calls cutting seven albums during the 1980s a dry spell.

Mr. Parker brings his voluminous songbook to Iota in Arlington on Monday. The following day his latest album, “Songs of No Consequence,” hits store shelves. It’s another Whitman’s Sampler of clever wordplay and tight rhythms, wrapped around a croaky voice that likely doomed his chances at mainstream appeal.

For the uninitiated, the “Songs” title alone says plenty about Mr. Parker’s barbed humor. This is the same artist who, when warning labels were becoming widespread in the early ‘90s, slapped one on his album “Burning Questions” cautioning that “meaningful lyrics” were enclosed.

The new album won’t do much to erase the “angry” label affixed to his forehead. The opening track, “Vanity Press,” is an all-out assault on the media, and “There’s Nothing on the Radio” picks up where Mr. Costello’s “Radio, Radio” left off.

“The press will jump on it and say the angry young man is complaining again,” he says of “There’s Nothing on,” a song he penned in the ‘90s and sat on until recently. “But it’s really fun and sometimes that’s good enough.”

He’s a bit more optimistic when it comes to the independent music scene, particularly indie labels.

“I don’t read many music magazines, but I was reading Amplifier … and I was looking at all the CDs being reviewed. Almost every one was on a different label,” he says. “It’s changed so dramatically.”

Mr. Parker wrote “Mercury Poisoning,” a middle finger salute to the label he was set to leave, but he doesn’t hold a grudge.

All the checks cleared, apparently.

“I had four albums on one and then four on another,” he says of Mercury and Arista records. “That’s an awful lot of money to have.”

He can even chuckle over his chats with Arista’s president back in the day.

“I had an annual meeting with Clive Davis when I told him what I thought of his company, which was stimulating,” he recalls.

He admits to indulging in the big label’s sinful excesses during the late 1970s, when his commercial appeal reached its modest peak.

“Let’s get the best studio in New York and stay there for two months,” he says of his philosophy then. In hindsight, all the bells and whistles meant nothing.

” ‘Squeezing Out Sparks’ took 11 days to record,” he says of an album considered by some to mark his finest hour.

Mr. Parker says he already has seven songs prepped for his next album, adding that he plans to release a new song called “Search Engine” on ITunes in the coming weeks. “I’m just trying to fit albums together so they make more sense.”

He can’t explain his prolific nature any more than he can understand right-wing talk show hosts — he is a devoted Air America fan.

“I can take something that isn’t my life at all and write lyrics and sing it with the emotional impact as if it were my life,” he says of his songwriting, “but none if it feels to be phony.”

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