What does it sound like?:
You could argue that this, the 6th album by Californian band Dawes, should have been their fifth. After the promise of Nothing Is Wrong and Stories Don’t End and the joy of All Your Favourite Bands, the fifth album, We’re All Gonna Die (much as I love it) – well, the report card would have read ‘trying too hard.’
So what is so different about Passwords?
The first thing is that Taylor Goldsmith has written a terrific batch of songs. I mean really, really good.
The second thing is producer, Jonathan Wilson. The clarity of sound and unfussy recording are a joy – and he even finds time to drop a couple of ‘Wilsonisms’ into the music.
And the third thing is a band growing into their own skins and growing in maturity as a band. Anyone who has seen Dawes live will tell you that the songs grow and have a life of their own when played live. These are recorded so perfectly for playing live that I cannot wait until they come back over the Pond.
The opening track, “Living In The Future” has a vicious riff that hammers away at your head and finally lets itself in. The lyric is about living in Trump’s America but, as usual with Taylor, is so cleverly written that you take whatever meaning you want. This is a killer couplet;
“And if you won’t sing the anthem
They’ll go find someone else who will.”
Then it’s a handbrake turn into one of the gentlest songs, “Stay Down.” It’s a beautiful little song about keeping your head down in the face of trouble but my initial reaction was that the analogy is about boxing – Sometimes it is better to stay down than take more punishment – and this is born out by the final verse.
Next up is “Crack The Case” and here we go. I thought that Taylor would never write anything as good as “My Way Back Home” or “A Little Bit of Everything” from Nothing Is Wrong or “Don’t Send Me Away” from All Your Favourite Bands but this gem is the first of 2 or 3 on here that will give those a run for their money. It also features the musical star of this album, keyboard player Lee Pardini. Lee joined the band 3 months after the 4th album, All Your Favourite Bands, was released (my wife, a huge fan of the band, still yells at the stereo whenever the title track of that album comes on, and Taylor sings “…and may all your favourite bands stay together”…”Yes but you didn’t, did you?”) and got a bit swamped by the production of the 5th album. Here, he shines.
The song starts with a dreamy piano intro and captures your heart as soon as Taylor starts singing. Boy, does Taylor Goldsmith have an ear for a melody. Try and resist this line…
“It’s really hard to hate anyone when you know what they’ve lived through, and once they’ve given you a taste.” It is a gorgeous song.
Feed The Fire is the song most influenced by Jonathan Wilson’s sound. Taylor plays a killer electric sitar solo and then JW drops in one of those beautiful twin lead guitar figures, straight out of his song Desert Raven. Five minutes in, Lee Pardini plays a gorgeous piano solo over lush strings that is right out of the playbook of Professor Roy Bittan. I can give it no higher praise.
“My Greatest Invention” sounds like the Beatles, with a George Harrison slide solo. I kid you not.
Telescope is another of those songs that are right up there with the best Taylor has written. And, if drummer Griffin Goldsmith played that without a click-track, then they can change the subject of the old joke about ‘How many drummers does it take to change a lightbulb?’ from Steve Gadd to Griff Goldsmith. Unbelievable.
“I Can’t Love You” is such a brilliant love song, with the twist coming over halfway through, and a glorious piano solo from Lee (yes, another!) and “The Mistakes We Should Have Made” will be a tour de force when they play it live.
“Never Gonna Say Goodbye” is another love song, which does it a great injustice. What I mean is, it is a Taylor Goldsmith love song, which elevates it above most anything else out there.
The final track, “Time Flies Either Way”, is a masterpiece. Not just of writing, but of production too. The space that Wilson leaves, the echoing kettle drum that harks back to Roy Orbison, the stunning piano playing and the captivating alto sax that comes in from left-field, strips the ball and runs the length of the field for a touchdown – magical.
What does it all *mean*?
I honestly think that history will show that this is the album when Dawes came of age. All of that early promise, all of those blistering live gigs, all of those wonderful songs have led to this. This album could not have happened without it’s five predecessors and I sincerely hope that the support gig on the U.S ELO tour this summer means that thousands more people get to hear this wonderful band.
Goes well with…
A sunny day, a glass of wine, a gentle breeze and the one you love.
Might suit people who like…