Tuesday, April 14, 2015

FIRST IMPRESSION: The Damnwells - The Damnwells (2015)

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but I sincerely hope that’s not true, because one of the most overlooked bands of the past 15 years has released a helluva record.  Self-titled and consisting of all four original members for the first time since the tour for 2006’s stellar but ill-fated “Air Stereo”, the Damnwells’ fifth record feels like the record that SHOULD have come after that high-water mark…rocking and introspective in equal measure, wizened but still hungry.   Kicking off with the staccato drums and guitar of “Money and Shiny Things”, it’s immediate what has been missing from the past couple of Damnwells records.  Guitarist David Chernis’ tangled leads are lyrical and biting, and returning drummer Steven Terry swings with precision and aplomb.  It’s exciting to have them back in the engine room, powering lead ‘well Alex Dezen’s songs of love lost and facing down middle age.  Dezen’s lived a lot of life since 2011’s “No One Listens to the Band Anymore” – splitting from his wife, becoming a songwriter for hire, releasing 4 solo eps – and this latest batch of songs is imbued not only with his trademark wit and eye for human detail but also feel personal in a way that make his previous songs feel more like character sketches.  You can’t help but wonder if he is the “bad husband” he sings about in “Kentexas” (which, sonically, feels very much like a part of “Air Stereo”), and it’s tough not to read into Eric Rosse (best known for producing Tori Amos’ devastating first two albums) producing chill-inducing album closer, “None of These Things”.  

Not everything here works – “Heavy Heart” answers the question of what the Beatles’ “Two of Us” would sound like given a yacht rock arrangement and despite its absolutely killer chorus, the litany of reality TV references in “Kill Me” comes across as more distracting than trenchant – but the songs that do show that Dezen and his reunited band of brothers know how to break your heart in exactly the right way.  It’s good to have you gents back…

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