South Africa’s Dan Patlansky did a pretty good job of announcing himself on the European scene last year with his album Dear Silence Thieves, not least with the driving but funky rock of the belting opening track, ‘Backbite’. There may not be a grabber of those dimensions on this follow-up, but it’s still another strong set, and one that confirms his potential as a performer who has blues roots but is succeeding in folding other influences into his sound.
Exhibit A: Post-Grunge. There’s an edginess to some of the songs here that recalls the likes of Foo Fighters, but without their clattering roughness. So ‘Run’ is a controlled roar, with bleeping and buzzing nibbling at the edges of some Stevie Ray riffing. ‘Sonnova Faith’
dynamically intersperses ringing guitar with pounding bass and drums
from Clint Falconer and Andy Maritz.
‘Heartbeat’ opens with a semi-acoustic nod to the kind of old-fashioned,
repetitive blues that Moby would have chosen to fool around with on Play, before Patlansky twists the chorus
into a more raw, Seattle blast, with a brief, squealing outro.
|Dan Patlansky gets in the mood|
Exhibit B: Melodies. I couldn’t say where Patlansky gets this from, but he manages to weave in vocal melodies that sound like they have a lineage all the way back to Beat Boom pop. ‘Poor John’ may open up in the kind of funky blues-rock vein that was at the core of Dear Silence Thieves, but the chorus could be by The Kinks. There’s a similar Sixties feel to the arrangement in ‘Western Decay’, with its nostalgic contrast between the restrictions of modern life and more innocent days. Meanwhile the melodic slowie ‘Loosen Up The Grip’ laces sensitive, bluesy guitar licks around swelling, non-bluesy choruses.
Exhibit C: Lyrics. Whether it’s ‘Poor John’, a tale of the revenge the protagonist intends to visit on a guy cheating with his woman, the withering indictment of entrepreneurial religion in ‘Sonnava Faith’, or the lubricious lust of ‘Stop The Messin’’, Patlansky shows that he has a sparky way with words. Even if the themes may be familiar, he’s not inclined to give himself over to clichés.
But for all the innovation and freshness Patlansky displays, there’s still plenty to hit the spot for blues fans. ‘Poor John’ has a breezy funkiness to it, while ‘Stop The Messin’’ serves up a husky vocal and jangling guitar over a pumping keyboard sound worthy of Stevie Wonder on ‘Living In the City’. He comes over all epic on ‘Still Wanna Be Your Man’, with a suitably big solo over discordant, moody Hammond organ swells. And if ‘Bet On Me’ is a brief sojourn into Jimi territory, with its ringing guitar over a simple melody, it proves to be just a warm-up for the closing ‘Queen Puree’. Hendrix is a declared influence, and here our Dan goes for broke with guttural rhythm guitar, channel-switching lead licks and echoing vocals, to conjure up the mood of – well, I’d say ‘Fire’ or ‘I Don’t Live Today’, but you take your pick.
A couple of songs here feel underdeveloped. I’m all for brevity trumping self-indulgence, but the sub-three minute outings of ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Bet On Me’ feel like they should have been explored just a little more. On the other hand, producer Theo Crous deserves a nod for an impressively modern sound and mix that shows off Patlansky’s capabilities to best effect.
‘Bet On Me’ makes passing reference to the ‘blues police’ going after another guy, but Dan Patlasky doesn’t need to worry on that score. He may be stretching the boundaries of modern blues, but he’s sure to be taking an audience with him.
Introvertigo is released on 6 May.