A Dark Jewel – Brian Dunn’s solo debut
Examining the fallout – Brian Dunn
(Cosmic Dave’s Record Label)
Review by Douglas Heselgrave
Fallout indeed! With a woozy saloon piano threatening to throw the melodies off kilter, drenching feedback so thick it sounds painted on, and Brian Dunn’s just barely awake after sleeping on the floor voice croaking out the tune, this is one Hell of a dark set of songs.
Before recording his solo debut, Brian Dunn spent six years touring with Vancouver’s Ox and the alt-country outfit November Allstars – whom we must assume were too mentally healthy to take on the darkness that he swims around in here. Red eyes, bleary whiskey talk, throwing up on Irish Sunday – you can practically smell the soggy cigarettes and feel the stale beer sticky floor listening to this record. It’s more than an understatement to say that not a lot of light shines through these litanies of regret that Dunn has fashioned into songs. And while it’s true that at a certain point confessing and spewing angst isn’t art – it’s therapy –there’s more than enough of interest going on in each of these numbers to allow Dunn to pull it off.
Songs like ‘Listening to myself die’ and ‘Worry’ are usually the kind of music my middle aged soul shies away from – with a ‘been there done that’ kind of shrug – but in the same way we can’t help ourselves and slow down to watch an accident scene, there’s something alluring in the way Dunn jumps right into the heart of these songs that makes them irresistibly compelling to listen to.
Sounding somewhere between Neil Young’s Stray Gators and Tonight’s the Night bands and wailing like David Byrne in a punctured cowboy hat, Dunn sings and plays with a chilling sense of purpose. Commitment oozes out of every phrase and hurting guitar lick, but sometimes I can’t help but worry about whether Dunn will be able to keep it up. Visionaries from Hank Williams to Shane McGowan have shown us that genius alone isn’t enough to sustain a drunken muse over the long run. But, I’m a music fan, not a social worker, and ‘Examining the Fallout’ is a fractured and powerful artistic statement that gets better with repeated exposure. Not for the timid or easily upset.
This review also appears at www.restlessandreal.blogspot.com
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