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The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

This review was first published on CLUAS in 2005
Other albums reviewed in 2005

Dan Sartain

A review of their album 'Dan Sartain Vs. The Serpientes'

Dan Sartain Vs. The Serpientes  Review Snapshot:
A bizarre mix of styles leaves Dromed feeling seduced but confused... Nothing new there then.

The CLUAS Verdict? 6 out of 10.

Full review:
Has it become de rigueur to disregard any kind of consistency or flow on an album in terms of concept, quality or production style? Have Babyshambles unleashed a monster breed of new generation 'fuck-it, DIY-it' artists?

I read a quote from Dan Sartain explaining why he made the album on his own (playing the majority of instruments on it himself and recording much of it in his garage) instead of getting a band together. According to him it was because he had had enough drug and ego problems of his own then to have to deal with anyone else's as well. I then read the guy was 23 and from Alabama! Half of me scoffed at the contrivance - the other half was curious to know more.

The first track on this album 'Trying to Say' is all 50s rockabilly bass riff while the melody and lyrics have a touch of Edwyn Collins and Eddie Cochrane, should they ever get lost in a Mexican tequila bar together. 'P.C.B 98' is a rock'n'roll tune with a surf twist. So far so good, we've got tales of roadtrips and kissing and the production is sweet. But 'I Could Have Had You' drops right off the radar. I have to turn my stereo up to make it out. The musical style also takes a sharp turn. There's a shuffle, a skiffle and a Cavern Club bass riff. The Mexican mariachi sound is still there. This is the stuff Quentin Tarantino dreams of.

'Walk Among the Cobras' is a regression of the raw bar-room blues the Kings of Leon became famous for. Dan sounds like he's never heard of them. He's too busy singing: "Well I found out, what it meant to walk among the cobras and to really be alone" sounding like a modern-day Hank Williams.

'Place to Call My Home' is melancholic, with a harmonium and lo-fi recording setting the tone. Sartain's voice bears more than a passing resemblance to the late Johnny Cash. Surely he's not 23?! 'Leeches' has a B-movie soundtrack feel, starting off as an instrumental and ending in a Pixies-like 'Vamos'. In 'Metropolis' the music is again mature beyond the artist's years, but still retains a feeling of teenage dissipation.

'Auto Pilot' is a creepily detached song to a lover with vaudeville-sounding marimba. Sartain sings: "When I stare into space and I'm behind closed doors / I put my body into auto pilot and I leave you behind". Ouch.

'Romance' is a dragging heap of a mess and I begin to wonder is there a history of mental illness in the family? How can one album be so eclectic, so up and down in production and quality of sound and yet be so damn charming? The song completely loses its way towards the end with a bad blues jam. Guitar overdubs compete to stay in time and in tune with each other.

'Got That Feeling' is a sitting-on-the-porch lament from a man abandoned by his woman (too much spacing out Dan?). It's a self-pitying, hang-over of a song and one starts to wonder was the entire album concocted in one night's alcoholic binge? That would maybe answer some of the mystery and explain why I feel strangely confused but pleasantly seduced.

(bullet) To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.