Within the musical world of the unsinkable Johnny Dowd, you have to laugh to keep from crying. Take the sad, first-person narrative of “Wedding Dress”, in which a young man recounts his sexual confusion — how he loved to play dress-up in mommy’s clothes until the day his butcher father took him to work “to see how a man carves his place in the world.” When he married his childhood sweetheart, he was torn: Was he man enough to pick up the meat cleaver? Or should he have been the one in the wedding dress? He details his psychosexual trauma as “a vision of myself standing on the edge of an abyss.”
Though tragic heroes have been howling into that abyss since the days of Oedipus (who had his own mother issues), rarely have the results been as howlingly funny as Dowd renders them. A lethal sense of deadpan humor informs his bleak vision of life, whether he’s recounting the aftermath of a suicide pact gone awry on “Garden Of Delight” or singing a country lament about missing mama on “Christmas Is Just Another Day” (“It’s a mother’s special day/Without the sweet Virgin Mary/Christmas would not be a holiday”).
So many of these songs involve death, blood ties, religion and romantic betrayal that one could connect the dots for a concept album, yet musically the results of Dowd’s sixth release are as playfully varied as the lyrics are grimly focused. From the oompah, beer-hall rhythms of the opening “Brother Jim” through the Hawaiian lilt of “Shipwreck” to the spaghetti-western-on-steroids twang of “Rip Off”, the instrumental that closes the album, Dowd and drummer Brian Wilson sustain an off-kilter tension between the stiletto-sharp narratives and their soundtrack.
Though Dowd inhabits a variety of twisted personae throughout these tracks, I’d like to think he offers an artistic credo ....... więcej