# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Dan Bern - New American Language

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 22 / 6 / 2002



Dan Bern - New American Language
Label: Cooking Vinyl
Format: CD

intro

Fifth album from versatile L.A. based singer-songwriter Dan Bern, who draws comparisons Bob Dylan, Tom Ovans and John Otway


Yes, a new name to this writer as well, which is surprising, as this is the fifth album from L.A. based singer-songwriter Dan Bern. Given that his first three albums were not that easy to come by maybe that’s not such a big mystery ,but his fourth album, ‘Fifty Eggs’, was produced by the ever wonderful Ani DiFranco, so it seems a bit strange that one slipped through the net. Even more of a mystery is that it didn’t garner more attention, especially if it showed even the smallest trace of the smart lyrics and stunning melodies which are scattered throughout these twelve songs. I’ve read two reviews of this album and they both start by quoting the same lyrics form the chorus of the title track so I’ll avoid that. But as much as I would like to ignore the comparison both reviews make to Bob Dylan, I’m afraid I can’t. The sound of early Dylan in Bern’s vocals is undeniable, and he also has Bob’s way of writing lyrics that capture the attention. To be fair, Bern is a long way from being just a Dylan copyist. The sound of Tom Ovans, particularly his earlier work, comes to mind while listening to these songs, although Bern pens more attractive melodies than Ovans. The wit factor in Bern’s lyrics are also higher. To these ears John Otway surprisingly came to mind a few times as well, especially on the magnificent closing track, the epic 10 minute,‘Thanksgiving Day Parade’. Although it seems unlikely that Otway ever used the banjo on any of his songs, the way the story unfolds brings to mind Otway classics like ‘Blue Eyes Of The Belle’ and ‘Josephine’. But to show that Bern should not be bogged down by the Dylan comparisons, the album gets off to a flying start with 'Sweetness, the jangly power-pop sounds of which sound like Tom Petty fronting The Byrds. It is a fine start, which is followed up by the title track, ‘New American Language’, which showcases both the knack Bern has of writing clever lyrics and wrapping them up in drop-dead gorgeous melodies. To read the line “I said ok, I guess, whatever” on paper can’t convey the resignation in Bern’s vocals or how important the line is to the overall story. It simply has to be heard. The following track, 'Alaska Highway', is a Crazy Horse type country rock song where Bern runs into Leonardo DiCaprio, Eminem and Britney Spears along the way before playing guitar with Keith Richards. But it’s track four that is arguably the best track on the album with Bern again coupling witty but thoughtful lyrics with another of his outstanding tunes in a tale where he meets God on the edge of town. He asks the Great Man to send him back in time to meet, in turn, Kurt Cobain (to take away his gun; God says “No”, Bern would only hassle Cobain for a deal or the name of a good lawyer), and Hitler, (again he gets the short answer "No" because, “You would let your fears delay and distract you, You would make friends”). Finally he asks God to transport him to Jerusalem to save the life of Jesus. The music quietens in this last verse to great effect then Bern’s voice soars like an angel (as God again rejects his request). When Bern sings “I knew I was beaten, and that was all I had” in the last line the weariness in his voice is so convincing it sounds like he has nothing left to give. On the first couple of listens to this album it is the title track, ‘God Says No’ and the aching, acoustic based ballad ‘Albuquerque Lullaby’ with Bern’s optimistic vocals pining “Don’t let your heart get broken by this world”, which are the highpoints of this collection. A couple of the other songs don’t seem to reach the standard set by these songs. It’s not until the third or fourth play that tracks like ‘Black Tornado’ and ‘Turning Over’ really hit home. The melodies are there. They are just not so obvious on the first couple of listens. ‘Honeydoo!’ a rootsy hybrid of rock and roll and bluegrass, is the one track which doesn’t work so well but when it is followed by a song of the calibre of the acoustic ‘Toledo’, again replete with the by now expected heart-stopping melody and thoughtful and literate lyrics Bern can be forgiven for the odd merely average song. This is a superb album co- produced by Chuck Plotkin (who works with Bruce Springsteen) and surely must be the one to raise Bern’s profile in these times when singer- songwriters are enjoying more attention and success than they have for a while. A grower, as they used to say.



Track Listing:-
1 Sweetness
2 New American Language
3 Alaska Highway
4 God Said No
5 Turning Over
6 Black Tornado
7 Albuquerque Lullaby
8 Tape
9 Honeydoo!
10 Toledo
11 Rice
12 Thanksgiving Day Parade


Label Links:-
http://cookingvinyl.com/
https://twitter.com/cookingvinyl
https://www.youtube.com/user/cookingvinylrecords
https://instagram.com/cookingvinyl/
https://www.facebook.com/cookingvinylrecords



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