Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Withered Hand

  • Good News [Absolutely Kosher, 2011] A-
  • New Gods [Slumberland, 2014] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Good News [Absolutely Kosher, 2011]
Somebody with more youth cred than me should tell a world that takes EMA seriously about backslid Edinburgh Christian Dan Willson, whose wife bought him an acoustic guitar for his 30th birthday so he'd have something he could sing louder than. Quavering wordy tunes that make Belle and Sebastian sound like the Beach Boys, only he has a band and they really are tunes, he surveys his doubt-ridden world with uneasy resolve and disillusioned, self-deprecating wit. A few couplets of a shaky anthem called "Religious Songs" suggest what he's capable of: "I don't really know what the wine was for/cos if it was Jesus' blood wouldn't there be more"; "Well, I beat myself off when I sleep on your futon/I walk in the rain with my secondhand suit on"; "'How does he expect to be happy/when he listens to death metal bands.'" A-

New Gods [Slumberland, 2014]
Almost 40 as he released his second album, Edinburgh singer-songwriter Dan Willson is one of those walking miracles who writes songs that seem simple until you try to think who they remind you of and pretty much stop at Neil Young, may the force be with him. Except insofar as they're also songs about losing God, they're songs about finding a better if by no means simple substitute. Which is love, of course, easy to say and hard to do in art and life both. Horny on tour, he remembers her entreating "Don't go breaking my heart." Taking a drive in the country, he wants to lick the tears from her face but can't unblock his own heart. Telling her she'll be beautiful yet again, he imagines tongues of fire above their heads. A

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