Damon McMahon comes on like Van the Man on Astral Weeks; wild, unhinged, preaching but seemingly vulnerable; working out stuff as he goes along.
(Sacred Bones) http://www.konkurrent.nl
A magnificent LP, this new one from Amen Dunes. Why? Well apart from the bleeding obvious, (some very strong, and very affecting songs such as Everybody is Crazy, Lonely Richard and the brilliant Lilac In Hand) it’s the feeling that the band are somewhere else altogether; both in their own minds and in relation to us listeners. They’re just not here; the LP is one that is being beamed down to us lot from some kind of astral service station. This isn’t the sound of a band trying to make a good LP, though compared to Amen Dunes’ earlier records this is a pretty straight record, concentrating on getting the message across (even if you wonder whether singer Damon McMahon really has grasped what he’s trying to tell us.
Records that are full of wild and lonely, starry-eyed, atmospheric ballads can sometimes grate, stick in the craw. There’s always a bit where you think “ach come on”, a bit where you sense that it’s just theatre, or that the singer’s got an issue with going all the way, preferring to settle for a bit of affirmation from us. Here, on tracks like Sixteen and Splits Are Parted singer Damon McMahon comes on like Van the Man on Astral Weeks; wild, unhinged, preaching but seemingly vulnerable; working out stuff as he goes along. Some of the lyrics are Janus-faced; they allude to things that can’t be seen, whilst using the barest language; in the way Syd Barrett used to lend an air of total mystery to the simplest of phrases. Listen into I Know Myself. What’s this cat on?
And then, on I Can’t Dig It, the band lets rip, shocking us all into wakefulness. Somehow this could only have been released on Sacred Bones; the sense that the label has yet again served to confound us is very strong.