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The Damnwells | Bastards of the Beat (Red Ink Records)

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The only thing that could explain how 20-something singer/songwriter Alex Dezen can capture the thoughts, feelings, and imagery he does on songs like “Kiss Catastrophe,” “I’ll Keep The Bad Things From You,” and “Star/Fool” is that he is blessed with a very old (and very experienced) soul.

 

The first time I ever heard of the Damnwells was when they were opening for Josh Rouse at the Duck Room a couple years back. I liked their live show a lot and picked up a copy of their self-released EP PMR (which, if I remember correctly, stood for Poor Man’s Record) that I liked equally well. I had a chance to meet the band after the show and they were some of the nicest guys you’d ever hope to meet. A year or so later, they came through town again, this time on a bill with Cheap Trick, and I got to spend a little more time with them. My second impression of them was very much like the first. Great band. Great songs. And still some of the nicest guys you’d ever hope to meet. So in the interest of full disclosure, I consider The Damnwells acquaintances. But that doesn’t change one bit my opinion of Bastards of the Beat.

This is simply a great record, front to back, beginning to end. The only thing that could explain how 20-something singer/songwriter Alex Dezen can capture the thoughts, feelings, and imagery he does on songs like “Kiss Catastrophe,” “I’ll Keep The Bad Things From You,” and “Star/Fool” is that he is blessed with a very old (and very experienced) soul. But he also knows when to let those thoughts and feelings stand on their own—as on the plainspoken “Assholes,” a few bars of which appear as the opening track of Bastards of the Beat—and when to cut loose, as on “What You Get” and “New Dehli,” a roll-down-the-windows-and-turn-it-up celebration of problem children and out-of-town parents. The Damnwells cover a range of ground on this record, from the quiet, driving at twilight lull of “Texas” to “Sleepsinging,” the only song brought forward from PMR, to “I’ll Be Around,” a song that would not be out of place on The Last Waltz. (Also keep an ear open for a beautiful and ethereal ghost track after the album’s last song called (I’m guessing) “Lucy.”)

Although the songwriting comes mainly from Dezen, The Damnwells are very much a band. One of the joys of listening to Bastards of the Beat, especially relative to PMR, is realizing how much they have gelled. Drummer Steven Terry and bassist Ted Hudson play together with the symbiosis of Siamese twins, while lead guitarist Dave Chernis shows his true understanding of Dezen’s songs by laying down his parts in just the right places and in just the right way to give both full affect. Support these guys and get this record. They are the real deal.


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