Oh yes, there’s Johnny again! The album starts off with the title track, drenched in distorted guitar loops and some keyboard notes on the end. He was so right, to announce the making of his new album with the lyrics of this song. On “White Dolemite” the drum machine enters the scene and so does vocalist Anna Coogan. “To the devil my soul I traded” – we enter old familiar territory when it comes to the lyrics. Using effects on the microphone, Johnny even namedrops Archie Bell and of course his own moniker! Then we go to New Orleans, Anna echoes Johnny’s words. I love the guitar riffs. Instant favorite! “Come and take a ride in my Cadillac Hearse…” and there they go! “The Devil Don’t Bother Me” features Johnny’s typical trademark ominous speak-singing; followed by a frantic and possessed “Empty Purse”.
“Why?” makes a terrific combination between the fine soul sounds of the music and Johnny’s stubborn off-key singing. Along comes Anna with a few lovely additions: “I wish I could sail away on a rocket ship”, an instant classic. “Fair is where you go if you want to see the pigs race / Fare is what you pay the bus driver to get you to another place”. Wisdom about fairness from the man who easily mentions the F-word with the name of Jesus in one line and gave us “You don’t have to be a postman to mail a letter / Be content with your life, it may not get any better”.
Pop and doo-wop influences from the fifties color “Sunglasses”, although I doubt if there would be any mention of ‘getting laid’ at all back then – Johnny address the crowd! “Nasty Mouth” and “Words Are Birds” (guitar solo by Mike Cook) return to a blues approach, still with the drum machine and synth all over the place. Funny, I never even liked synths, but here it’s an essential part of the music. This proves again, what a master manipulator Johnny is, to make people like what they officially dislike!
Some more rhythmic rap poet speak-singing in “My Old Flame”. It gets even better in that fast “Dear John Letter”, where Anna’s singing culminates in a sort of fascinating banshee shrieks! In “Female Jesus” Johnny tries to be compassionate over the background of cold electronic beeps and bleeps. By the way, did you know that the female Jesus played guitar in a punk band? Some altcountry touches for “Poor, But Proud”, another great duet with Anna who even practices her best female country diva vocals. The album ends with a long (5m38s) track, called “Teardrops”, where Johnny plays guitar, with his trusted old mates Willie B. on drums and Mike Edmondson on keyboards. Great live feel! That last part, where Johnny pretends to thank the audience and leaves the building: with your wife on the back of his horse – is just priceless!!
Ithaca’s Master of the Absurd strikes again, as only he can, delivering his full-on adventurous sonic assault with experimental noisy breaks and all – as promised.
Forget comparisons with Captain Beefheart, Nick Cave or Tom Waits > this is THE Johnny Dowd we’re talking about in this item! Of course, there are influences from blues, country, folk, rock and funk, but he will never fit into any music genre or box, he is so totally his own man. Or should we say genius? He succeeded with his plan, returning to the spirit and recording process of his first CD and he created another captivating combination of lo-fi meets electronic beats.
I like that picture of Johnny’s great-grandfather, I’m missing a lyrics booklet, but Johnny never looses his touch or black humor in creating a gothic cycle of dark, wayward, gloomy songs.