Danny Baxley – Love Sex Alcohol – Album Review
What a bold handful of innovators we’ve had at the homepage since coming back from vacation! Artists & bands like David Sempier, Static Choke and just yesterday with David Stephenson – this summer is bringing out some intensely genius music. Even the stuff that we expected to be great like the latest from Armada Named Sound and Smoking Martha went on to exceed their own standards. It certainly makes a guy like me happy to be back…the independent music-scene seems to be firing on all cylinders of creativity right now and I wouldn’t want to miss out. Present company included…Danny Baxley’s got a unique thing going on with his Love Sex Alcohol and clearly taken chances in effort to create something new & explore a completely different side of music you might not even know exists yet. Love it or hate it – I think the pursuit of something different, coming from a genuine interest to DO just that…to mine musical-terrain for undiscovered gems…that’s always extremely admirable in my books.
You’d probably do just as well to consider Danny Baxley an offbeat & imaginative poet or potentially even spoken-word artist at times after listening to Love Sex Alcohol. Could again be why this album ends up sounding so fresh in its ideas and why I’m responding to it personally – I dig these kinds of bizarre artistic combinations and intense uniqueness. That being said…I probably don’t need to explain to Danny already that he’d be fighting an uphill battle with the masses…and hopefully he’s not offended even remotely by my saying that this is a real album for the freaks, geeks & weirdos like me out there. If you’re looking for straight-ahead music or typical hooks…keep on a-movin’ down your playlist…that’s not what Baxley is about – but if you’re looking for something boldly unique, creative & crazy – come on in, the water’s warm. It might be filled with Love, Sex and Alcohol…but it’s warm nonetheless.
Love Sex Alcohol begins with “Trials And Errors Of A Troubled Mind” – some of you might argue that the album also stays that way. Danny’s going to have to get used to all kinds of crazy comments that are going to be used in effort to describe his music…but if my own suspicions are correct, no one out there will feel indifferent about it. He’s written what is likely one of those polarizing albums that will endure much discussion about whether or not he’s a genius or a madman – but no one is going to feel ‘nothing.’ I dig the instant combination of electro-meets-guitars…the music itself was an immediate hit, especially with the additional elements that crawl into the mix just past the first minute and the eventual defining switch that occurs around the 1:40 mark – Danny’s got a ton of great ideas. As he dragged out the words over the opening verse with as much lethargy as you can wake up to on the mic…I wasn’t sure I was gonna ‘get it’ myself at first…but then listening to the poetic way he’s written the words and the further development of the vocal-flow took shape…and honestly I got lost right into this. I did my best to recall something that has transitioned in a similar way…I really love what Danny’s done on this first tune and the quick shift into words flowing freely; the way he’s got one line heading into the next immediately ends up making the lyrics really enticing to listen to…like complete thoughts spoken aloud & partially sung…you can hear his confidence grow as the music expands to surround & envelop him. The words are smartly strung together and really do offer up unique perspectives & imaginative lines – but most importantly for the average listener out there, he does eventually find his way to an accessible rhythm and groove just as much through the vocals as he does through the music. Might take some people out there a couple listens…but I’m pretty positive we’ll all hear from this first tune that there is indeed, something here in the music of Danny Baxley.
I think “Ithaca” will confirm much of what I said about the first tune for people out there…possibly also for Danny himself in reference to how others hear the music he makes. To me…musically…this guy has undeniably sound and solid ideas – he is UBER creative and has a high-level of creativity & professional-touch in the writing and structure between the electro-elements and the guitar-work. I have no doubt whatsoever that the vocals are likely to be the ‘newest’ addition to the music that he makes; he might have even debated going instrumental, who knows – but eventually, he must have come around to the idea that to make the music he really wanted to make, he had to embrace his own sound and make it work to the best of his abilities. As a result…on songs like “Ithaca,” or “Lose Control” afterwards…at times it can feel like he’s yet to figure out ‘how’ to approach his material…it becomes difficult to discern through his tones whether or not what we’re hearing is ‘new’ or if it’s more of an attempt at bringing something creative into the overall idea through the vocals. Personally, I think it’s probably a humble combination of both those scenarios…I think there’s still a newness you can hear in his approach, but I do think he’s making an honest effort at bringing something new to the table. The hook in the chorus of “Ithaca” is a perfect example…the idea is 100% solid…the way he chooses to sing it reveals just enough of the melody to really hear the idea, but with a few dissonant tones that hit the pattern flatly. What was perhaps the ODDEST thing about this entire scenario was that because of the honest way he seems to be approaching the vocals…nothing that seemed out of line tone-wise ever seemed to bug me. I think that speaks a lot to the amount of character, uniqueness and passion he’s putting in here.
“Lose Control” definitely takes the record into even more bizarre territory – but again, SOMETHING is working here…even if I can’t put my finger on it myself, I couldn’t stop listening to this tune. I’ve got a lot of respect for the offbeat poet in Danny and the way he writes his lyrics – when he goes on a serious roll through the words of “Lose Control,” you can’t help but try to catch every word. In amongst the electro-filled madness, you might not catch them all first time around as he’s sunk deep into the mix here – but as I’ve always stated, it gives you a great reason to return. Around the three-minute mark, this idea fully develops with additional elements in the mix as it heads towards an eventual breakdown & ending…”Lose Control” is quite the wild, imaginative ride and a good switch in direction that’ll be sure to keep you awake enough to journey through its hypnotic sound. Almost in a direct response, Danny contrasts the intensity of “Lose Control” by slowing it all down for a moment on “Gnaw Goes The Wolf.” Musically tender – hell, I’d go as far as to say you could even call the music BEAUTIFUL in this song – he’s got perfect percussion sounds in with the electro-melody. Between those and the unreal backing-vocal layers he’s got working for himself in this intimate and isolated little tune – rather than take the sound to YOU, YOU end up coming closer to this sweetened song to listen. There’s still a dissonance-factor in how Danny’s singing the lead, but the background is perfectly on-point & imaginative; the overall ideas and gentle sound of “Gnaw Goes The Wolf” absolutely fascinated me.
The guitars in behind the electro & beat of “Crossed Line” really hit the spot for me. I felt like Danny found his way into a solid set of verses on this tune and stumbled a bit in the chorus of this cut. The first half of the chorus worked with the melody…the latter half maybe more wide of the intended mark. The breakdown of “Crossed Line” is one of my favorite moments on the record, even though it passes all-too quickly – Danny gives this a more pronounced effort to sing-out the melody and you can hear he could certainly pull it off at any time he chooses. That’s what “Crossed Line” teaches you most…that the offbeat way he’s approached the vocals on this record have been a choice all along…you can hear he’s more than capable of keeping the tone right where it needs to be when the breakdown/bridge of “Crossed Line” comes along.
As IF “Love Sex Alcohol” isn’t one of the raddest things you’ll hear this year! I’m kind of relieved. There are sooooooo many albums out there that really wish the title-track was the opus-magnum of the record and they’re usually not half as the band/artist wants them to be. Great concepts to build from usually…but almost always missing the intended mark and not making the impact that an album’s centerpiece deserves. THIS track…is the exception to that for sure. I’ve enjoyed myself in the bizarre universe of sound that Danny Baxley thrives in so far – but the genius ideas and mix that drive his title-track took it all to the next-level for me. The opening electro is straight-up fascinating and sounds brilliant, sparkly & shiny as “Love Sex Alcohol” begins; cue the intense sounds of the percussion and the low hushed tones of Baxley’s vocals and you’ve got yourself a seriously rad and highly innovative tune. I have NO IDEA what is going on in the chorus of this tune – but I know what I love when I hear it, and I love this. The glitch editing on this cut…the perfect vocal placement & well-suited tones…that one melody line in the music which may/may-not be guitar but is genius AF…what else can I say but that the mystery & mayhem combine in all the best of ways to create one hell of a title-track. “Love Sex Alcohol” is unbelievably engaging and truly like an entire mix of swirling sounds you’ve never heard combined like this before – it’s new and it’s as real as it gets – brilliant song & it makes a massively memorable impact.
And of course, sometimes when a song can impress you entirely…the song after it can suffer the wrath as a result. Musically, I dig “Dream More Time For Crime” but this time the music wasn’t quite enough to pull me away from the dissonant sound to the vocals on this one…and it’s harder to forgive in general now after hearing the capabilities on display in that moment of “Crossed Lines.” I do think that coming after “Love Sex Alcohol” would have been a tough spot for any song on this record…but I’m not sure there’s room for “Dream More Time For Crime” on this album when compared to the rest of the songs for anything from performance to writing to production. The music gives us just enough of that signature uniqueness, groove & beat to keep us listening…but yeah, again by comparison to the other tunes and certainly the song directly before it, “Dream More Time For Crime” was the most questionable inclusion on this album…I’m just not sure it adds enough to this record to warrant being on it with the rest of the tunes & ideas this time around.
Danny rebounds really strongly from this point with the insanely catchy ideas, electro-rhythm & groove on “I Am.” Completely with video-game sounds & samples in the mix (or…at least I think so?) – he’s found what is likely another one of his more accessible songs with this tune. The effects on the vocals actually work really well in his favor throughout the verse to begin with – and then I’ll be damned if he doesn’t absolutely maximize this sound in the song’s chorus. Great beat and movement to “I Am” – Danny’s almost always got a lot going on inside of his music and this is no exception, but once again, he’s found impressive ways to entertain and really make his madness work. Dude really knows how to find NEW things in music we haven’t experienced yet – “I Am” proves that…and I really respect the effort to do something that is absolutely different from the rest of what’s going on out there. When it works out like “I Am” or “Love Sex Alcohol” does – what on earth could be more of a rewarding feeling? Danny Baxley is a damn pioneer!
Heading towards the end of Love Sex Alcohol, “Not So King Of Pop” is a pretty perplexing tune. Danny has revealed thoughts, feelings and opinions on society, personal emotions and social awareness in a lot of his music throughout this album…but probably not nearly as direct as he does on this cut. Aside from the frankness of the lyrics…I still don’t even quite know what I think about this track myself! I like the rhythm…I like the bass-line groove…not sure about the distorted effects on the vocals in the verse but didn’t mind them in the chorus. I LOVED how the chorus like, completely sneaks up on you in a way that you don’t even realize you’re IN it until you’re already a line deep at the very least…this song flows right into it. This particular track kind of reminds me of A Truth Called Nothing and the bizarre sounds they’ve brought to rock over their own past couple albums. I think that that there is definitely something here…but I think it’s a seriously tough sound/style to absorb for most listeners out there. I could be dead-wrong about that…personally I couldn’t stop listening to “Not So King Of Pop” even though the last line of the chorus continuously sounded like an awkward fit…something about the way this song flowed right into its different parts kept me highly interested in the way this song was structured and sounds.
“Hey A” is a tough one to love…again following a strong tune and finding itself in a tougher spot than most. As an ending to the record…I’m kinda thinking that “Hey A” might wander and drift a bit too far for most…I can appreciate the relaxed approach and vibe he’s looking to create this final tune but between the music & vocals there are a few jarring elements that keep this track from coming across as tenderly as it’s intending to. Lyrically I think he’s done a great job here and I think “Hey A” opens up strongly in the beginning verses…but as it progresses further into the song and into the chorus, Danny ends up straying a bit too far from the melody in the music to create that cohesion required. It sounds like he’s going for a more artistic performance/approach on this one…just not quite sure he’s hit it as close to the mark as he’d like to in this final cut. The highly innovative, creative and textured music on this record clearly indicates he fully understands when a sound or tone is bang-on…so again, we have to assume that for the most part, the vocals have also come out expressing themselves exactly as he’s looking to have them sound. Throughout Love Sex Alcohol, the two sounds have consistently clashed and contrasted with each other – but an imaginative mind & large portion of this record has kept Danny Baxley sounding intensely fresh and unique to the rest of what’s happening out there by comparison.
The brand-new record, Love Sex Alcohol is being released officially online everywhere there is music on July 14th – and I’ve got more info & thoughts to share about this guy too…I’ll get into all those on the next episode of the SBS Podcast, so be sure to check that out when the show returns from its summer break next week. In the meantime, make sure you stay tuned on the details about the official album release – you can find out more about Danny Baxley at his official site here at: www.dannybaxley.com