US - New Jersey - Full Moon 120 - 07/11/06
Yet another trip to the wild and wondrous world of Brother Danielson, a.k.a. Daniel Smith. This time he and his crew take us out to sea, with the new record Ships. Hmmm, a conceptual album about life at sea, boats and ships? Not the fist time Danielson has been into with the maritime or navigation (ehh, Danielson Famile's album Fetch the Compass Kids, or the song "Thanx to Noah" from their Tri-Danielson, Vol. 2 (Omega)). Or being into making albums sound conceptual, in a bizarre, symph-rock way. This time 'Ships' most of all seems to be sailing the seas of life.
Once more it's back to the carnival freak-show Pixies meets Pere Ubu meets a lot of other underground type music. The Danielson family is bigger and more expanded than ever. The Smith siblings/family/relatives are here. Sufjan Stevens is present. Josiah Wolf and Yoni Wolf (of Why?), John Ringhofer (Half-handed Cloud), and Satomi, Greg and John (of Deerhoof) is on board. This time even Norwegian Emil Nikolaisen (of Serena Maneesh) is one of the family associates (involved as mixing assistant only?). Anyway, Ships sets sail with "Ship the Majestic Suffix", which sort of reveal the underlying theme or thread in Danielson's lyrics. Quite clearly the 'ship. is anchored within his religious belief. At least what I read out of it, counting myself out (being the 'allergic' to religion type I am). That said, Danielson brings good portions of humor into his lyrics as well as his music, not making him a vulgar missionary. "Bloodbook on the Halfshell" is a fresh sounding song, bringing the lines: "Go get that lovely book / lets grab those lovely books / gather up all these books / we're gettin' looks, looks / we're gettin' the looks / these lovely bloody books / arms full of lovely books / freely collecting books / we're gettin' funny looks / while we are stacking, organizing, filing / piling way up high and rising / dewey dusty, decimalizing / sorting, tracking, systemizing / can't believe we found this vintage / we now have such great advantage / great they'll look in our library". Is it the book, or just collecting books? An ode to librarians?
The crazy and catchy "Did I Step on Your Trumpet?" is one of the better songs of the album (in fact it's inspired by a happening in 6th grade, when Daniel did/didn't step on some Billy's family trumpet - Daniel's advise: "...if you accidently offended someone, politely say, 'I'm sorry, did I step on your trumpet?"). Again Smith shows his skills as tune- and word-smith. And his humor: "Would you take care of my pet parrot / and feed him these / he speaks less than me", one line goes, as Danielson's mouth goes like a machine gun. All the way throughout the album the orchestration is massive, as is the singing. Massive, yet almost translucent. Because the music is arranged as anarchy in motion, not following conventional rules at all. Expect the unexpected.
Nevertheless, I'm not all blasted and taken away by Ships. Sorry, 'Bro', but Ships is one step back compared to last album, Brother is to Son.But, of course - you'll not be totally disappointed when/if entering Ships. It's just that you'll be even more amused checking out his older musical vessels.
Copyright © 2006 Håvard Oppøyen