Album: Dawes, Nothing Is Wrong (Loose)
Friday 26 August 2011
The West Coast revival continues with this splendid second album from Dawes, the Los Angeles combo who were adopted by Robbie Robertson as his backing band for recent promotional performances, presumably because he heard something natural and collective in the way they played together.
That is certainly the impression given by Nothing Is Wrong, which was produced by Jonathan Wilson, whose recent Gentle Spirit offered a soothing simulacrum of the classic Laurel Canyon close-harmony sound that backdropped the late-60s singer-songwriter boom. Built around the Goldsmith brothers, drummer Griffin and guitarist/songwriter Taylor, Dawes' sound is redolent of faded denim, scuffed cowboy boots and hours spent sharing seats on a tour bus.
"Time Spent In Los Angeles" opens the album, with Benmont Tench's organ prominent behind Goldsmith's guitar as the latter muses upon the melancholy charm exhibited by Angelenos. It is followed in the sluggish, whiskery manner of Crazy Horse with "If I Wanted Someone", in which the short journey in the refrain from "maid" to "easy" summarises the constituent influences of Neil Young and The Eagles, the former brought to mind by the snarling, wiry guitar break, the latter by the sleek harmonies. Sometimes, local references combine unusually – as when "The Way You Laugh" blends the prancing gait of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" with slide-guitar licks that bring to mind Jackson Browne's sidekick, David Lindley. In none of these comparisons would Dawes be found notably wanting.
Goldsmith writes, apparently, on a typewriter, claiming that the discipline helps with the precision of lines like "Some people were just meant to be a memory, to be called upon to remind us how we've changed" and "You broke the quick, giving heart of a kid, and you're now coming back to a man". Both sentiments are indicative of his fascination with the unalterable past and its effect upon the future. It forces him into some unusual positions, as in the break-up songs "Fire Away" and "Million Dollar Bill". In "Fire Away" he offers to be the emotional punchbag for the split, taking the blame for everything even when that is clearly not the case. In "Million Dollar Bill", he expresses a desire to remain a strong presence in the memory of an ex-lover by having his face on banknotes or becoming a famous film star or astronaut, an unavoidable cultural icon. It is as threatening and dubious as "Every Breath You Take" or "The One I Love" and it is likewise lubricated by a languid grace, particularly in the cooing, Eagles-esque harmonies.
Elsewhere, the plaintive "Moon In The Water" offers a moving metaphor for unreachable love, before "A Little Bit Of Everything" closes proceedings with a lengthy and detailed exploration of the desire to experience everything, and both the wonders and saddening downsides furnished by that experience.
It is a thoughtful, mature conclusion to an album that seems to summarise one of the more welcoming trends in American rock.
DOWNLOAD THIS: Time Spent In Los Angeles; If I Wanted Someone; A Little Bit Of Everything; The Way You Laugh; Coming Back To A Man
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