Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs
This is the witty Darrin Bradbury’s debut for Anti Records. His rhymes and keen observations may remind some of John Prine or Steve Goodman. Heck, at times even his voice sounds like Prine’s. Bradbury’ss collection of songs blend dark humor with observations that are so obvious when you hear them that they may leave you wondering why others haven’t put them into songs. The songs were shaped by Bradbury’s own coping with depression, yet several will leave a listener laughing. Put to rather simple music by producer Kenneth Pattengale (Milk Carton Kids), there are only four core musicians backing Bradbury’s vocals, strummed acoustic., and plainspoken lyrics.
Fellow Anti label mate, friend, and fellow songwriter Jeremy Ivey who just released his own acclaimed album, The Dream and the Dreamer, plays bass and piano while Alex Munos (various guitars), Dillon Napier (drums), and Pattengale (mellotron) add support. Margo Price duets with Bradbury on “The Trouble With Time,” a standout track that’s a combination of country ballad and indie rock with the memorable line – ““I woke up this morning and I got out of bed/Tripped on my pants and fell on my head.” Bradbury says he wrote the song with his parents in mind so they could have a “go to” song that they could share with friends; one that “wouldn’t weird them out.”
The song titles offer clues to his unique stance. The title track has a little nugget about the microwave and atom bomb being distant cousins. On “Hell’s More or Less the Same” is a story song about how drugs can’t really get you through despair “American Life” paints an accurate picture of what this country’s like. The short ditty “Strange Bird” conjures up images of Walter Cronkite, Coca Cola and various oddities. On “Nothing Much” he talks about waiting for the medicine to ease the pain while sitting in a hurricane with the memorable chorus – “If you ask me what I’m up to, nothing much.”
“This Too Shall Pass,” along with “The Trouble With Time” has been issued as a single and its seemingly simple lines like “The present don’t leave you til it’s ready,” like many of his line, prove provocative. He opens captures the boredom and sameness of motels perfectly in “Motel Room, Motel Room,” even repeating those lines endlessly for emphasis. He brings this dark satire to a peak in “So Many Ways to Die (Frozen Pizza) – “fight like hell to live through the war/slip on milk at the grocery store.” He finishes with a dream he had about Kennedy’s assassination as if he were Oswald, only to be awoken and told it was just a bad dream as the tune mysteriously fades out.
Bradbury’s satire may be coming from a dark place, but he has a gift for lyrics that will leave you smiling.
- Jim Hynes