Danny & the Champions of The World - Streets of Our Time

by Al Brown Rating:3 Release Date:2010-01-25

The first song on this album is an ode to a van that the band presumably owned once, which is just the kind of cutesy in-joke that makes me want to punch them all in the face. "Henry the van died/ at the roadside/ on the way to Aberdeen", the singer sings and I think: "Does a band named after a Roald Dahl book who called their van Henry deserve my attention, or should they go back to their mother's teats before they get cranky?" This is drippy stuff, kids: back at the beginning of the last century people made rootsy, banjo-flecked music like this but suffused the lyrics with the hurt and loss of their immensely difficult lives; now twentysomethings use it to talk about some lump of metal they anthropomorphised to fill the meaningless void of their existence. To clarify: I'm not having a go at them for making the song; I'm having a go at them for thinking anyone outside their immediate circle of friends would want to hear it.

Not all of the album is like this: the next couple of songs are about some nameless struggle which the protagonist is bravely contending with. The lyrics generally fail to convey any kind of interesting imagery or emotion though and dip into cliché with alarming regularity. They are also repeated alot, and this coupled with lack of instrumental and dynamic variation is a sure-fire recipe for monotony. The music itself is very reminiscent of Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds: lots of banjo, pedal steel guitar and front-porch harmonising; it's pretty enough but I can't imagine anyone getting genuinely excited about it.

Things pick up considerably with 'Follow The River', a lively Bruce Springsteen-style song complete with nostalgic lyrics and sax. This turns out to be a red herring though; the next song is another rootin-tootin' strumalong about a swan or something. 'Streets of Our Time' features our singer sounding exactly like Neil Young and I'm guessing if these guys had been in Laurel Canyon in the seventies they would be millionaires too but right here, right now, it doesn't cut it. That whole scene was (with the benefit of hindsight and BBC4 documentaries) fairly boring so trying to breathe life into the corpse 35 years later does absolutely nothing for me.

I'm being incredibly harsh, probably, but here's the thing: I don't like bands from England who sing in American accents and play steel-guitar and banjo. It's pastiche, plain and simple: as sure as Duffy will never be Dionne Warwick, DannyATCOTW will never be in the same stratosphere as Johnny Cash or Gram Parsons, no matter how much they would like to be. If they start singing about what a struggle their lives are I won't believe them, and if they sing about their fucking van I'll want to hit them. It's an impossible situation, but then they are the ones who chose to deal in pastiche rather than make something personal and interesting, so they will have to live with it.

Alistair Brown

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars