March 26, 2004

Doug Powell "Day for Night"

Every decade has produced a rock and roll studio wizard, someone not only rewardingly produces music, but who has their own band or solo career--people who redefine music in the way they make their music. In the 60s we had Brian Wilson; in the 70s, we had Todd Rundgren, and though others will debate this, I'd say that in the 80s we had Andy Partridge and Thomas Dolby and in the 90s we had Dr. Dre and Steve Albini. Who, then, will make the double-zero decade worthwhile? Who will make excellent records on their own within the confines of their studios?

Ladies and gentlemen, I nominate Doug Powell.

Yeah, you've never heard of him. It's okay, I really hadn't heard of him, either, until hearing Day for Night his newest studio offering. He was in a minor supergroup called Swag, featuring members of Golden Smog, Sixpence None the Richer and Cheap Trick (even if their lawyers won't let you know that), but that's not the issue here. What is the issue, though, is the fact that, in 2004, you need Doug Powell's music in your life. You do. You really, really do.

Day For Night is one of those eccentric records that strikes your heart immediately. You're allowed in--everyone is welcome into Powell's world!--and it's a wonderful pop kingdom he's created. I'm half-expecting Powell to start singing "Pure Imagination" or some sort of song that sings the praises of his pure-pop paradise. You want sweet harmonies? You got it. You want intelligent lyrics? Not a problem. You want some silly bits of experiments in between some of the richest melodies you've heard this side of Something/Anything? Please don't feel bad, you're not asking for too much.

Though he's a real-life disciple of Rundgren, don't think for a minute that he's trying to be the second coming of the Runt. His music is much more XTC-like, and Powell's easily a dead ringer for Andy Partridge, it would be easy for you to think that 'Doug Powell' is another one of Partridge's sneaks on an unsuspecting audience. I could easily live with that, and it's hard not to think that after listening to "Now?" or "Stanislaw Smith," which sounds like a wonderful altrenate universe hit off of/outtake from their Oranges & Lemons. It's slick, it's radio friendly, it's complete with a wonderful cameo appearance from the devil himself, and I love every dang minute of it! (Go look at the thank you list in his liner notes. Count the associates to both XTC and Todd Rundgren. Does that tell you something? It should.)

Every single song on this album sounds like they were hits ten-fifteen years ago. In all my short years of writing about music, I have yet to find another record where I've thought I've heard every song on the radio before, but Day for Night has deceived me in that way. I'm happy for it; heck, I'm mighty grateful for the deception. And I'm going to use my lazy music reviewer card right now and say, "I can't properly describe the greatness of this record, go and buy it and you'll hear what I mean!" I 'm sure you'll love the hard rock of "Stanislaw Smith." I love the pop goodness of "Big Blue Sky." I think you'll dig the weirdness of "Circus Minimus." I know you'll love the mellow love sentiment that of "Shine," even if it borrows a bit too much from "My Favorite Things."

When I make my time machine, one of the first things I'm a-gonna do is go back to 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988 and make sure every single song on Day for Night make it onto the radio.After all, in the studio Doug Powell's a wizard, a true star, and he deserves that kind of respect. He sure as hell isn't gonna get it in 2004, because this kind of music isn't respected any more. Once I get my time machine built, I don't think that's gonna be that hard of a feat. Hands down, Day For Night is one of the best records this year.

--Joseph Kyle

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