on 11 November 2012
How about Johnny Cash crossed with Suicide? Lou Reed mixed with Frank Zappa? Nick Cave dropping in on Soft Cell?! Analogue beats and electronica? A gravel voiced stalker plus cooing female voices? Every track a woman's name? Welcome to Johnny Dowd's world!
First track 'Betty' begins with a ringing telephone followed quickly by a menacing, throbbing bass plus Johnny's sinister overtones. He wants his leather jacket back - the one he left with her YEARS ago, when they were in college - and insists she doesn't hang up; oh, and he knows EXACTLY where she lives and what school her kids go to and where her husband works. So DON'T hang up Betty!! It's brilliantly deranged, setting the template for the rest of the album; oh, and Betty gets the last word!
Third track 'Billie' starts as though it's going to turn into The Supremes 'Stop In The Name Of Love', whilst the following 'Sherry' threatens to turn into 50's doo-wop at any moment. Across the album, whilst Johnny's 'vocals' remain similar, the music twists and turns through a wide variety of styles, although things do sag a bit half way through.
There's plenty of dark humour, but the lyrics are often very bleak indeed; penultimate track 'Linda' manages suicide, murder and a baby's death all in under three minutes. As with his previous albums there's something very unsettling yet very magnetic about the whole thing. If you like musical 'outsiders' then you'll like this.
on 25 June 2012
A concept album, examining 13 relationships through Dowd's distorted but fascinating prism. It works well, from the humorous Betty to the closing Candy, Dowd's "beauty in your world of ugly".
A caveat. You either love Johnny Dowd's work or you loathe it, there's no middle ground. But if you connect with his music there is a rich seam of recordings to tap into. Be warned though, this is not easy listening. He charts the darker side of life, love and the American dream, often with dark humour. The lyrics venture into territory no other song writer I know dares enter: just what is autobiographical and what is not is any listener's guess. On every album there are some tracks that work brilliantly, others that do not come off so well. But Dowd is never slick and he is never dull. And with an output of some 15 CDs in about as many years (taking into account his live releases) that is quite an achievement.