Alex Izenberg isn’t afraid of his influences. Better yet, his influences are his friends: “I’ve begun to find myself expecting my musical idols to walk from around a corner and say ‘Alex! Dude what’s up!’ said Izenberg in an Instagram post announcing his new album Caravan Château. “They’ve shared pieces of themselves and their perspectives, becoming the people I hold closest in life.”
Penny Lane’s iconic Almost Famous quote about going to the record store to see your friends is a little overly sentimental, sure, but it’s comforting nonetheless—and especially so these days, when a record collection really does help pass the time when you’re stuck at home night after night. You don’t need to know your favorite musicians for them to be your friends, and in fact it might actually be better off that way. For Izenberg, people like Lou Reed and David Bowie are there for him no matter what, and instead of just ripping off their records quietly and hoping no one notices, he’s instead decided to pay tribute in his own way, occasionally borrowing their words to suit his own melodies.
You’ll pick out references in lyrics, like Reed’s “fine, fine music” on “To Move On,” from 2016’s Harlequin. And on Caravan Château, there’s Bowie’s “ch-ch-changes” on “Anne in Strange Furs,” among other quick stops in classic rock’s comforting past, sometimes explicit, sometimes up for interpretation. When references do pop up, usually a bit psychedelically, it does indeed feel like rounding a corner and finding Cream standing there, with full-’fro Clapton going, “Dude, what’s up!”
Izenberg, who recently revealed that he’s been diagnosed as schizophrenic since 2012, doesn’t sound like anyone but himself on this record. You can certainly place him within the same scene of hazy L.A. art pop acts like Drugdealer and Mild High Club, but his unpredictable song structures and weary vocal lines are his and his alone. The ride is a wild—almost terrifying—one at times, but as soon as you start to feel a little turned around, Izenberg is there to pick you up and dust you off. He’s going for a drive on the Sunset Strip and you’re welcome to join. He’s your friend now, too. | n rogers