Album: Johnny Dowd, A Drunkard's Masterpiece (Munich)

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The Independent Culture

Johnny Dowd is like some self-mutating virus of American music, restlessly bringing fresh twists to old forms, absorbing influences.

The likes of Beefheart and The Residents have informed his warped for years, and stirred in here are elements of The Doors, Miles's serrated Seventies avant-jazz, Los Lobos, doowop and a snatch of Deep Purple's most renowned riff. The album is presented as three opuses of four or five segued songs apiece; the theme is, as usual, the war of the sexes, accompanied in "Random Thoughts" and "Unintended Consequences" by ruminations on "civilisation and its discontents", among them Bukowski, existentialism and Fred Astaire.

All feature Dowd's blend of high tragedy and low comedy, embodied in the cynical charm of lines like "Poetry is the path to hell, accompanied by the sound of wedding bells". But then, who else but maybe Frank Zappa would do a song about "the sacred bond between audience and performer" and call it "Union of Idiots"?

Pick of the album: 'Danger/Blind Painter Paints Black', 'Random Thoughts', ''Things a Woman Needs'