I never understood Varnaline. Try as I might, I have to admit that I never got 'em. Oh, it wasn't that I didn't try, but there have always been a few bands that I just never could fully appreciate. I understood that they made smart music, but bands like Swell and American Music Club and Varnaline, I really couldn't dig 'em. Can't explain why, really. Listening to them now, I can appreciate their nuances, but back during their heyday, there was no love connection. Tell It To The Dust is Varnaline mastermind Anders Parker's solo debut, and it's refreshing that he laid that moniker to rest, otherwise this little record might not have been as well-loved as it deserves.
Tell It To The Dust is a fresh start, and it's a great-sounding fresh start, too. The songs follow a dusty, slightly stoned country road, though you should be hesitant to call it country. Parker sings with a voice that's hard, yet delicate; it's jaded enough to be cynical, but soft enough to be sensitive. At times you might mistake him for Jay Farrar--which only confuses the issue on "Feel The Same," which has Farrar joining him on vocals! Though this is a solo record, it doesn't feel like a solo record, because he does have a talented bunch of musicians backing him up, including Farrar, the excellent Joan Wasser on strings and Kendall Meade on piano.
Relationships appear to be Tell It To The Dust's underlying theme. Songs of love meet songs of hope meet songs of sadness meet songs of joy, and with his sensitive tough voice, Parker sounds all the more convincing. He can turn a phrase, too; in "Tell It To The Dust," he sings of being alone, listening to Iggy Pop, and "I spent a year out there one night when you were gone," all the while wishing his ex-lover well. Though in songs like "So It Goes" and "Innocents" he sings of broken hearts, he does so with a little bit of hope; he messed up, love didn't quite work out, but you feel it's going to be the best and he wishes well for the ones who hurt him. When he sings of the joys of love and friendship, he's even more convincing. "Go Alone" is a wonderful ode to a lover who's hung up on asserting their independence, but Parker warns them "You're going to need/A friend to watch your back." With its simple message, it's upbeat piano and distant saxophone solo, it's easily one of my favorite songs. And if you happen to be one of those types who loved Varnaline's psych-rock freakouts (and prog-rock side project Space Needle), he gives you the epic album closer "Doornail (Hats Off to Buster Keaton)."
Tell It To The Dust is a quiet little jewel of a record. Take a little time to seek this record out; it possesses many little nuances and quirks and some excellent, heartfelt songwriting. Though he might have retired the Varnaline name, Tell It To The Dust proves Parker can stand alone as a solo act.
Artist Website: http://www.andersparker.com
Label Website: http://www.baryonrecords.com