The Damnwells- Bastards Of The Beat (Red Ink/ Epic)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. Assholes
2. What You Get
3. Kiss Catastrophe
4. I'll Be Around
5. Newborn History
6. I Will Keep The Bad Things From You
7. Sleepsinging
8. The Sound
9. The Lost Complaint
10. Electric Harmony
11. New Delhi
12. Star/ Fool
13. Texas

Brooklyn-based Damnwells don't sound like Brooklyn. Sounding more like L.A. by way of Chapel Hill, they arrive with thirteen stories, all grounded in simple harmonies and flesh-tearing hooks. After one listen, any of five tracks will compete in your memory.

What is refreshing about the Damnwells is their ability to draw from their influences without having them dictate their sound. What results is this wonderful blend of power-pop, alt-country and mid-career Replacements.

Vocalist Alex Dezen recalls Toad-era Glen Phillips- a warm, sometimes whiskey-tinged voice that is alternately comforting and plaintive. Guitarist Davis Chernis has some great chops, and the instinct to integrate them only when it suits the song. Note the diversity on the power chords of What You Get and The Sound, the Wilco-stained twang of Kiss Catastrophe and the Coldplay meets Blue Rodeo mishmash of Newborn History. He clearly has a lot of gears to work with, and I suspect most of them are still to come.

The opener Assholes does the job of getting attention and sinking its teeth in at the same time. Opening as an alt-country piece, it (too) quickly blends into the jangly power pop of What You Get.   Certainly one of the more infectious tracks I've heard in some time, with simple guitar chords of Chernis and Dezen drifting into the very catchy "that's what you get for being afraid, that's what you get for staying away." It's a dumb, meaningless, just-try-to-get-it-out-of-your-head pop song- tailor made for the soundtrack of the WB drama of your choice. And what Bastards Of The Beat has done, in the first two minutes really, is lay the foundation for the rest of the disc. It might be pissed-off country, it might be a mainstream pop gold, but somehow they're gonna make it work together.

Kiss Catastrophe takes us back to alt-country territory. With memorable lines like "lock me out of the sheets for a while, give us a kiss with sharp little knives" you know we're firmly out of the power-pop and into the emotional fire. Dezen does a masterful job of drawing you into his moods, with a quiet warmth belies the energy of the more mainstream tracks.

Somehow I stumbled into this band opening for the Twilight Singers. Perhaps knowing the crowd, their live set had more of a hard edge on stage than it does on Bastards Of The Beat, but this is in no way a criticism. In fact, it is the balance of this disc that makes it stand out as something sorely missed- an album instead of a collection of songs. Bastards is an impressive journey by a very talented young band who have certainly only begun to stake their territory.


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