It must be painful for Low Cut Connie mastermind Adam Weiner to keep himself from going overboard. The group’s sixth and latest album, Private Lives, is a double album, featuring 17 songs that Weiner recorded with nearly 40 of his closest friends. They indulge gospel-choir sing-alongs, channel classic-sounding soul horn arrangements, and generally cut loose and lose themselves in Weiner’s grooves. This kitchen sink inclusivity is what made Low Cut Connie a live draw and made fans out of Elton John, President Obama (who included the Philadelphia-based band on a Spotify playlist), and the artist Weiner seems to look up to the most, musically, Bruce Springsteen.
Yet the best moments on Private Lives happen when Weiner & Co. keep things simple. The record’s centerpiece is the Springsteeny ballad “Look What They Did,” an elegy for the way a certain billionaire president screwed over Atlantic City. “They built casinos in 1981, they said the whole freakin’ city’s gonna grow,” Weiner sings over gentle piano chords and a bed of strings, “Donald Trump made half a billion, what have we got to show?” On the other end of the spectrum, Weiner sounds comfortable leading a late-night R&B exorcism on “Let It All Hang Out Tonite,” singing, “Let it all hang out tonite/Bring it all into the light/Let it open up your eyes, until you’re feelin’ all right,” as his many friends join in on the groove, singing along and jamming freely.
But the album’s masterpiece may be the taut title cut, which might as well be Weiner’s “Walk on the Mild Side,” as he sings about one underdog after another just trying to make ends meet (without indulging any Lou Reed–style underground fetishes). It’s an unpretentious ode to nannies who have to deal weed to survive, house painters, and “town freaks and sleazies” who bring tears to Weiner’s eyes. The melody is sweet enough to gloss over the desperation of the lyrics, and that’s what makes it all the more appealing.
The record’s only failing is Weiner’s instinct for maximalism. Many of Private Lives’ 17 tracks are one- or two-minute segues that don’t sound so much like intervals as undercooked songs; it’s like songs that Low Cut Connie could have developed but just felt they had to release to fill two albums. But these are easily skippable, and there’s enough top-shelf Connie here that a few speed bumps don’t slow it down too much.