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March 18-24, 2004 City Paper- Philadelphia cover story Middle-Class Act One-man band Steve P. Klein sings the baby boomers' blues. By Patrick Rapa You probably never heard of Steve P. Klein or his CD, the homespun but professionally recorded concept album, Babyboomer-angst.com. After recording the disc in 2002, he sent some copies around to local papers and played a few songs for family and friends, but that was about it. He has never performed these songs for an audience. 'I'm still waiting for somebody like John Hammond to discover me and make me famous like Bessie Smith,' he jokes. In the meantime, he's been singing and playing harmonica in blues duo Sister Blue at area clubs and working a day job in a government office. Babyboomer-angst.com is not a blues album, not exactly. The music is eclectic: soft pop on one track, rollicking rock on another, then Latin, soul, new wave and reggae. But the lyrics -- the curiously phrased, sincerely delivered lyrics -- are precisely the sort of beaten-down-but-carrying-on spirit on which the blues was founded. The songs come from his experiences as a 50-something worker bee living in the Northeast. 'Bossman' is about working for an idiot. 'Love Hurts' is about being pussy-whipped. Mixed in are heartfelt odes to his brother, wife and kids. Each track gets a brief, spoken introduction; 'Yo, Dad, Whasup' starts with 'How do you get your kids to believe you that things were different then? We had the pill with no worry about AIDS.' Before you can ponder this, in comes that big harmonica sound to start the song. Probably the quintessential song is 'Middle Class' -- it's the first one he wrote and it leads off the album. The spoken intro is whimsical and ominous, 'I don't know about you, but Leave It to Beaver did not exactly prepare me for life as an adult.' Cue harmonica. The brooding chorus, with Klein's voice layered over itself via the DigiTech Vocalist Performer, laments diminishing savings and accumulating debt. The way he sees it, the middle class is starting to resemble the poor, and the song reflects that. 'It's about dashed hopes and dreams,' he says. 'I was trying to talk about the universal truths, what a lot of middle-class people are going through.' Klein, who was unemployed and living on food stamps for a while, tries to convey the desperate times with a degree of humor, hence the last line, wherein the protagonist contemplates giving up. 'It's tongue-in-cheek but it's a realistic song for a lot of people,' he says. Middle Class Steve P. Klein Middle class, middle class, middle class Life used to be a gas Middle class, middle class, middle class I'm in debt to my ass I owe so much money Can barely pay the rent Even with my overtime Too many bills to make a dent Middle class, middle class, middle class Thought my savings last Middle class, middle class, middle class I'm in debt to my ass Ever since I was downsized, Can't get a new job; I'm too old Chinese prisoners do it cheaper My company threw me out in the cold Never thought I'd be on food stamps But my kids have got to eat I sold everything of value I give up, I'm in retreat 'Cause I'm middle class, middle class, middle class A normal life is past Middle class, middle class, middle class I'm in debt to my ass When I was young the world was my oyster Maybe I'd be president one day Now I live like in a cloister Every day I pray and pay Middle class! It's a thing of the past Middle class, breathe my oven's gas.