Devestating. But in a good way...
sfobos | Massachusetts, USA | 05/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's something truly exhilarating about finding yourself so immersed in an artist's work that you find yourself completely lost in their world, vivid with the images, emotions, hopes and dreams that they portray. And make no mistake: BIRD DOG is an exhilarating experience, of sorts. Graeme Downes' songwriting captures melancholy in terms so personal and compelling that you can't help but be swept up in the grandeur and anguish of his heartbreak.From his declaration of "I'll see you in the death machine tomorrow, unless somebody's God intervenes" in the opening "Makes No Difference," Downes paints scene after powerful scene of lives where good times come only in a brief rush of alcohol or nicotine, where love inevitably torments and disappears, where happiness is only a memory. "I dream of being like I was before," he sings in "Take Good Care of It" -- an ambition whose impossibiliy doesn't stop him from longing for something, anything, better than the life he sees.The album's high point comes at its midpoint, the aptly-titled "Slow Sad Love Song," which may well be the most harrowing, devastating entry to the "love song" category ever recorded. Building from a slow strum to a final, frenzied cacaphony of guitar and pain, Downes seizes the fragmented moments in time that define the death of a relationship ("Tones of resignation, 'I'll probably see you round.'"). In the song's final moments, his thin, anguished voice is literally howling in pain and confusion... and the effect is nothing shy of exhilarating.The Verlaines' early albums (i.e. Juvenalia, Hallelujah) were overwraught with obtuse writing and musical structure (as if Downes was attempting to justify his Ph.D in music). Downes' most recent work (both his solo album and the Verlaines final Over The Moon) suffer from his increasingly off-key vocals and growing fascination with Tin Pan Alley. But in between, some remarkable music was produced -- and BIRD DOG is clearly the high point. Like the doomed dog on the cover, Downes' characters are forever searching for something beautiful and better, something just out of reach... something that will inevitably lead them over the side of a cliff. But as he sings in the album's finale, CD Jimmy Jazz and Me, "We live in hope." And sometimes, that's enough."
sfobos | 06/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first heard this record driving to work on the Taconic Parkway in 1989. Memorable songs are like familiar smells, they heighten the awareness of your emvironment so you can immediately capture a time and a place. The lyrical imagery and 0 to 100 dB instrumental dynamics seem to play on this. "Take Good Care Of It" with its frenzied allusions to Camel cigarettes and "Bird-Dog" with its climactic singalong to imported German beer. These are real compositions, no producer listed."