In 2015, Woodbury revived The Popular Music Group in Los Angeles to produce the 18-song album “Pay Attention,” with Andy Sanesi (drums); Dan Lutz (bass); David Witham (piano); Marc Muller (guitars, bass, pedal steel, etc.); Jim Kimo West (guitars); Glen Berger (woodwinds); Chris Tedesco (trumpets); Dan Levine (trombone); Ben Powell (violin); and special guests Tulasi Rain; Johnny Unicorn; Michael Webster; Eli Brueggemann and Nick Ariondo.
A farflung journey from comic miniatures to grandiose art songs to quirky power pop to cosmic world excursions.
What if Weird Al Yankovic wrote his own songs instead of doing song parodies? He’d be Brian Woodbury.
For three decades, Woodbury, a California tunesmith, has been crafting tight pop ditties with a dark sense of humor — sort of like an episode of “Louie” crossed with “Louie Louie.”
Woodbury will celebrate his new album, “Pay Attention,” on Thursday, July 30 at Barbes in Brooklyn. Like the disc, the show will open with a bit of classic Woodbury self-mockery, a title track that bemoans the plight of the under-appreciated singer-songwriter: “Pay attention to me/Pay attention to me/Cause this is the place where your attention should be/It’s not all about you/So pay attention to me.”
He’s been singing that particular tune from his seminal debut album, “Brian Woodbury and his Popular Music Group” in 1992 to today.
“I even used to do costumes and antics on stage to get attention,” he jokes. “I even had breakaway pants that I’d pull off to reveal another set of pants below.
“But now it’s just me on stage singing my songs…and mugging a bit,” adds Woodbury, who lived in New York from the late-1980s until 2000, when he decamped to California to write music for kids shows.
The July 30 show will feature mostly new numbers — it’s a CD release party, after all — but the same Woodbury eclecticism.
In “The Real World,” he mocks conspiracy theorists and domestic nut jobs: “President Obama wasn’t born in Kenya/The world wasn’t made in seven days/A chain letter won’t get you a million bucks/William Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays.”
In “You Had Me,” he pulls out a country twang to sing about a mean girlfriend he can’t quit: “You had me at ‘Go f–k yourself,’” is the opening lyric.
And in “Diplomatic Plates,” he mines that classic New York annoyance: If he had DPL tags, Woodbury sings, “I’d park in front of hydrants/Punch patrolmen in the jaw/I’d drink and drive, go 95/And break the so-called law.”
Gersh Kuntzman, New York Daily News