Danielson – [Album]

Monday, 27 October 2008

It was about twelve years ago when I first heard the Danielson Famile. I was working as an intern at a major label. The German translation of said label is roughly “jungfrau.” I was always milling through the stacks, looking for something that wasn't completely, soul-suckingly awful. Eventually I made friends in the office with the label rep for Blue Note who eased my pain with some Art Blakey and Dexter Gordon reissues, and I began picking at that guy's brain a bit. Turns out he's a dyed-in-the-striped shirt record geek like me and he was also in a band that was on the 4AD label and he then regales me with weird, oddly excessive drug stories involving the Cocteau Twins. 

Soon after this, he begins turning me on to '60s pop-art bands like the Music Machine, possibly the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (memory's fading), but most definitely the Danielson Famile. He sets it up with the usual, "you gotta hear this band . . . " and gives me the spiel. They're Christians, they're all one family that live together, it's just one guy, he's crazy, he's preaching, it's like a cult . . . an overload of information, which only part of which is true. A few of the other employees are in the office that day, humming around and flipping through the reams and reams of Lenny Kravitz posters and Fun Lovin' Criminals promos, whiling away the hours until one of us gets fired or dies so that we can move up the ladder.

So anyway, we are all in one open space and this guy puts in "Idiot Boxsen" and it makes for a good, unforced chuckle from all sides at first. Because Daniel Smith (the guiding light, heart, and unfettered searching soul behind this whole thing) has a voice that does not seek your approval. It's part way between a wail and a screech – like Black Francis during his manic, Spanish-speaking episodes with the Pixies and what ever witch (which ever witch?) cackles and says, "…my pretties". He's singing about the evils of TV. Other songs denounce swearing; even flipping the dreaded "bird" gets an untoward glance, "shake hands with that middle finger," says Daniel. Most importantly, he's a devout Christian who sings about the lord at just about every moment. Good for a laugh from the inherently anti-organized religion crowd assembled that day, but there's something more there. There is passion underneath these rants, there is a soul who wants not simply to decry the actions of others, but wants to take away the filth and replace it with love and faith. This is something that I gradually go to understand after the laughter around me dies out, my curiosity blooms, and something akin to admiration takes root.

So it begins there and continues to this day. An obsession with a man obsessed. Daniel Smith is obsessed with God, creating art, and bringing his idea of family and the healing powers of his music to the world. In this, he's created album after album of unsung pleasures – a whirlwind of clattering acoustic guitars, bells, horns, handclaps, girl-group harmonies, and homemade, earthly joys. This collection puts tracks from each of the Danielson albums together in one place, alongside the requisite amount of non-album tracks, rarities, and live songs. There's just a fraction of the guy's music here, but it's never less than riveting and if you can't find something to believe in this world, you can at least believe in Daniel Smith.


Danielson – "Daughters Will Tune You" – [mp3]
Danielson – "Good News for Pus Pickers" – [mp3]
Danielson – "Rallying the Dominoes" – [mp3]

Trying Hartz is out November 11, 2008. Buy it on Amazon.

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