Marshall Crenshaw

It's amazing how many people don't know Marshall Crenshaw. Oh, sure, '80s hipsters are as aware of Crenshaw as they are of the Plimsouls or the Replacements, but most people are blissfully ignorant (probably waiting for the return of disco); if they know him at all, it's from the role of Buddy Holly in the movie La Bamba or as the bandleader in Peggy Sue Got Married. There was a moment -- well, a couple of years -- when it looked like Crenshaw would be the U.S. equivalent of Elvis Costello: an earnest, brainy, erudite young man with the ability to combine the punk ethos with memorable, tightly crafted pop songs that had beaucoup "wow" factor. "Someday, Someway" from his 1982 debut, Marshall Crenshaw, seemed to signal the arrival of a huge talent. It did, but like Steve Forbert (loudly acclaimed as the next Bob Dylan, as if we needed another), Crenshaw fizzled and burned out as tastes changed and he didn't much (if there's a legacy for '80s music, it's that trends moved so fast, only the carefully promoted and voraciously ambitious few could keep up).

But flash forward twentysomething years and Crenshaw looks more and more like…Elvis Costello, a guy out there making records he wants to make, when he chooses to make them, with whom he chooses to make them. His fan base may not be the throngs the major labels hoped for, but the loyalists remain loyal, and every now and then they bring a new pilgrim to the picnic. Fortunately for us, the Continental Club has been a regular stopping point for Crenshaw, who only does 40 to 50 gigs per year these days, on his swings south. From one show to the next, the man never stops inventing, interpolating and rethinking; his talent is as boundless as it ever was. Sounds like someone named Elvis -- and not the one with a taste for fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches and bad jumpsuits.

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William Michael Smith