Vinyl Vlog 223

Vinyl Vlog 223

Sunday, 28 May 2017

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the Modern Pressure LP by Daniel Romano.
If we can all agree that the key to having an enduring career in music lies in an artist’s ability to always have listeners guessing excitedly at what they might have in store next from album to album, there’s no chance that interest in Daniel Romano’s music will wane anytime soon. Since the singer first appeared fronting a hardcore band in 2005, Romano has leapt from punk to rock to folk to country and back again with ease, impunity and a staggering amount of grace both as a solo artist and as a member of a band. Each time he has made the jump to another point in the music spectrum, Romano has proven that the only limiting factor which might hold or steer his music is his own imagination; in effect, the singer has proven that if he can dream it, he can also find a way to not only make it real, but make it palatable to a significant portion of his fanbase. While other artists might blush at the idea of making the kind of artistic leaps Romano has in fear of alienating fans, this artist just goes for it.

Romano’s sixth album released under his own name (his first for New West Records), Modern Pressure, continues in the singer’s tradition of spontaneous reinvention but, this time, he has aimed for something which is simultaneously more expansive and less generically specific; rather than pinning into punk or indie or anything like that, he has chosen instead to assemble an album inspired by the multitude of sounds, (production) styles and ideas which first began to germinate in the 1970s. The warmth of what sounds like analogue recording embraces each song, giving them a familiarity regardless of whether listeners have heard them before or not, and that instantly gives the music an enticing quality from the moment “Ugly Human Heat (Part 1)” opens the A-side of the album. That familiarity would be a success in itself, but there’s more to what “Ugly Human Heart” is offering too; the jangling piano, reverb-touched and sinewy bass which dominate the songsound as though they might have been inspired by the Billy Joel, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Elton John and Eric Clapton albums which appear in the collections of most every man who came to the age of majority around 1975 (read: the spoils that Romano would have had the chance to pick through as a kid), but that it’s presented with such meticulous attention to detail as it is on Modern Pressure betrays a sense of ambition guaranteed to get listeners paying really close attention. They’ll want to know everything they can learn about the care Romano has taken with this first song and why, and also where the record might be headed after it lets out – if “Ugly Human Heart (Part 1)” is just a one-off which happens to open the album or if it’s simply the lede where everything starts.

After that beginning, it doesn’t take long for listeners to figure out that Daniel Romano is all-in with this vintage Seventies sound on Modern Pressure, but a line of dominoes named “Modern Pressure,” “Roya,” “The Pride of Queens” and “When I Learned You Name” all fall perfectly to prove it for those who might be uncertain too. At every turn through the A-side, listeners get left with the impression that each song was composed and produced out of love and respect for Seventies rock – not because the singer is trying to make some kind of tired statement. Here, the music comes off as true and genuine and, by the time “Sucking the Old World Dry” comes along to close the side, listeners will find themselves as much in love with what Romano’s doing as the singer is himself.

After listeners hurriedly flip Modern Pressure over in hopes that the album will continue its journey undiverted from the A-sides course, they’ll find that the general idea doesn’t just endure, it’s coupled with more than a few improvements. Beginning with “Impossible Green,” Romano elevates the sagacity to a more collegiate level with the help of added instrumentation like sitar and lyrical ideas and directions (check out lines like “In a reckless moment something went from being born to being spent” and “A yellow blush of gaping sky had opened all the calloused eyes” and then remember to keep your mouth from gaping open, reader) seemingly right out of the blue within the context of the ground that Modern Pressure has already covered. The sudden change represented by “Impossible Green” is absolutely captivating and, as soon as “Jennifer Castle” follows it, it proves to not be alone; as the B-side plays out, the combined result of “Jennifer Castle” (a love song of the sort seldom seen since the birth of punk), the countrified “Dancing With the Lady in the Moon” and the weird, melodic and sort of poppy acid trip which is “I Tried To Hold The World In My Mouth” amount to an epic and supremely unusual exercise in sound and style experimentation of a type which is just not often heard anymore because most artists get worried about how much money they’re spending while they’re in the studio. That such concern has clearly been abandoned here in favor of focusing on the art of creation feels really liberating even as one listens and that it has yielded really infectious results makes it a remarkable, gratifying experience.

After “What’s To Become of the Meaning Of Love” rattles through and closes the B-side of Modern Pressure, there’s no question that fans will be left excited by the experience and now, per usual, will be wondering which creative direction Daniel Romano might follow next. If history means anything, the only sure bet to make is that nothing is for sure and the singer will just do what moves him – as he has always done. The best we can hope is that the quality and creative maturity expressed by Modern Pressure will be something the singer elects to take with him on future releases; in that regard, Modern Pressure is spectacular. [Bill Adams]


Modern Pressure is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.


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