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the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Dan Wallace

eclectic reviews and opinions

Dan Wallace

Neon and Gold

(Torito Bravo, 2006)

Dan Wallace's Neon and Gold has some real merit, and I feel vaguely guilty that I can't recommend it more unreservedly. It vacillates between midtempo electric rock and folky, acoustic guitar and/or piano pieces with stacked harmonies (sometimes in the same song). "Fell" is a clear standout, a hazy rocker considerably enlivened by George Lawler's drumming and an almost mathy guitar break. (It's available for download at danwallacemusic.com.) The rockier tunes -- like "Homage," with its creepy sexual imagery, and "Back of My Mind," in which the drums fight the song's waltz feel in a way that's intriguing more than annoying -- generally work better for me. "Back of My Mind," also features my favorite lyric, "Play us a song, but a real one, not your own." Unfortunately, too many of the songs are peopled by anonymous "you"s and "me"s and vague therapy-speak ("I know it's hard to be you always/I know you're not the you I see today"). While they might be personally meaningful to the songwriter, the absence of specific detail renders them opaque to the listener. Wallace's vocal lines often feature long-held notes that show the technical limits of his singing. He's not a bad singer, but neither is he compelling enough for me to overlook his unsteady pitch and sometimes awkward phrasing. The dreamy, drowsy mood of Neon and Gold (perhaps unfairly, I suspect the influence of cannabis) is very consistent, so much so that the album feels a little claustrophobic over the course of its near-hour.

Worthy of special mention is "Sonatina," a solo acoustic guitar instrumental with interesting harmonic movement and recorded with a lovely, lush tone. At 4 minutes, it's a bit long, but it's the sort of piece that could work easily in a film soundtrack, perhaps in a scene where the protagonist reaches a difficult decision.

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