Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Dan Knudsen Won't Hurt You

Another great outsider musician named Daniel, Dan Knudsen is just as sincere, child-like, likeable, odd and God-fearing as D. Johnston, minus the mental-illness related drama and trauma (so far as I know). In spite, or maybe because of the fact that this janitor at a YMCA couldn't be more different from other Portland, Maine punk/industrial/avant artists, he's championed by this small-but-tightknit scene, doing shows with him after he started appearing at open mics, backing him live, even putting together a tribute covers album.

Knudsen's many wonderful releases are now up for free streaming/buying, all featuring his cheap xeroxed album covers, his acoustic guitar (and some rinky-dink electronics), and his high 'n' homely voice. They can be addictive - I've found myself playing one of his EPs after another. 

The six track "Beaches and Zoos" from 2005 is as good a place to start as any - in the somewhat creepy sing-along opener, Knudsen insists that he won't hurt you ("Your face will never be black and bluuuue! Aren't you glad, aren't you glad?"); both "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "The Lord of The Rings" are summarized in song; the Jonathan Richman-like title track promises numerous visits to, you got it, beaches and zoos, with some truly unique lyrical rhyming (e.g.: "USA" and "Flori-day"); and when you do go to the beach, once again, you have nothing to fear: "The Sharks are Gone!" Few performers could so unselfconsciously sing lines like: "I'm well-trained and skilled in aquatic safety," but Knudsen makes it all seem so natural.

The Dan Knudsen story began with 2000's lo-fi "Sunsong," six painfully sincere tales of love and heartbreak. "Grass, Grain, and Appleseeds" from 2002 has one of my favorite oddities from the Knudsen oeuvre, the spacey "We Are Not Alone." The beautiful title song sums up life as well as any. The chorus of "Rockin' On The Railroad" sounds a little too much like Neil Young's "Rockin In The Free World" to be a coincidence, just as "Rain Falls Outside My Window" appears to be a bizarre re-write of John Denver's "Sunshine On My Shoulder" ("If the rain falls thru a hole in my roof, it will make me drown...") [UPDATE 7/9/13: re "Rockin' On The Railroad", got an email from a reader who noticed "If you listen to the guitar riff, it sounds very similar to the Traveling Wilbury's "At the end of the line". And guess what is featured in the Wilbury's youtube video of the song?? They are singing the song while riding on a train.  Coincidence?!]

The catchy title track to 2011's "Lost Airways" finds him taking a flight, looking forward to seeing family and friends, worrying about terrorist attacks, and singing: "It's almost a six mile altitude/the roar of the engines sounds real rude" over guitars and cheezy Casios. He also points out that "We All Make Mistakes."

Advanced students may want to move on to "Outer Space," a sci-fi fantasy that's pretty out-there, in all senses of the phrase.

Sweet and guileless, utterly without pretension or show-biz posturing, with a slightly ominous undercurrent that keeps it from being too corny and wholesome...count me in as another "DanFan."

Dan Knudsen's Bandcamp page

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Redd Kross totally has to cover "Beaches and Zoos."