Just came back from the Cornelius show at the Bowery Ballroom, and I'm floating. A Cornelius show is guaranteed fun -- it was one of the first shows I've seen where a packed house of indie-rock kids was in near-unanimous agreement that what they'd just witnessed was awesome. As a performer, Cornelius seems unaffectedly magnetic -- charming and adorable without being fey or foppish, radiating rock-star confidence without being arrogant. I get the sense that the man IS his music, that what he does comes completely naturally to him, that there isn't even one doubt in his mind that "Cornelius" is who he should be.
Some geniuses are lifelong sufferers. They carry the burden of the world on their rarefied shoulders, and they're never satisfied with themselves or anyone else. Some geniuses are savants. Cornelius is the best kind of genius -- he's aware of how talented he is, and he's obviously no slouch as a craftsman/entertainer, but he's finally surpassed the point of insecurity and defensive perfectionism and gotten good enough that he can relax, make beautiful, harmonically complex pop that's also silly and frolicsome. He's in his element. He's the Japanese Jeff Lynne!
It's hard to describe the Cornelius sound without describing the personality -- anyway, his musical repertoire is so vast that once you've found a hole for the pigeon, it flies out of your hands and homes in on another hole. You can't just use "psychedelia" or "Brian Wilson" or "Todd Rundgren" or "Prince" or "Stereolab" or "Beck" or "Jon Spencer" as reference points; those influences are not a life preserver for an artist stranded in an oceanic ditch of creative blockage, rather they're like accessories, enhancements, something sprinkled on to the finished product to give it that extra little bit of flair. The music is effervescent. I hate that word because it reminds me of 7-Up, but maybe that's appropriate; don't think of it as the tiny beestings of the bubbles as they explode on your tongue, think of it as holding your face over a freshly poured glass with ice, and the mist sprays your cheeks. It excites you, it relaxes you, it makes you feel gooooooood.
(More when I write my review. In the meantime, go download "Point of View Point.")