“Whuh!” grunts Dan Patlansky at the start of ‘Too Far Gone’. It’s like a statement of intent for one of his trademarks – when Dan Patlansky decides to get gritty on Perfection Kills, he gets real gritty.
For me Patlansky’s last album Introvertigo never really found the weight of punch that was evident on its predecessor Dear Silence Thieves. But this time around ‘Too Far Gone’ is just one example of him getting back to his edgy best, its big descending riff trading off against some squeaky funkiness before he slots in a strong solo that also incorporates some stylish dynamics.
|Hit' em high, hit 'em low, hit 'em hard!|
Pic by Laurence Harvey
The album opens and closes with similarly convincing combinations. ‘Johnny’ has an attack that lives up to its chorus of “Hit ‘em high, hit ‘em low, hit ‘em hard”. It’s a tale of the impact of growing up in a difficult environment, but Patlansky still manages to add light to the shade with some twinkling guitar and smooth vocal “oohs” in contrast to the rasp of his vocal elsewhere. At the other end of the set comes ‘Dog Day’, which ponders whether our hard day’s night is as bad as the plight of others, to the accompaniment of a neck-snapping chorus, and sand-blasted guitar underscored by organ oomph, before Patlansky rounds it out with a brief, squalling rollercoaster of a solo.
In between those two bookends the aforementioned ‘Too Far Gone’ bolsters the middle of the album, along with the offbeat funky undercurrent of ‘Junket Man’ and the staccato edginess of ‘iEyes’. The former contrasts relaxed verses with a tense chorus, while Patlansky dashes off a – technical term coming up – widdly guitar solo with ease. The latter casts a withering eye on the phenomenon of people taking in the world through their phone screens, the distorted vocals suggesting the unnatural filter they’re surrendering to.
But Patlansky is just as good when taking a breather from the hard-hitting approach of these tracks. ‘Mayday’ is slower, more mellow, with keys contributions that add delicacy. Patlansky’s guitar sparkles, and the verses have a dreamy quality that call to mind his Floyd influences. Maybe it could be leavened with a middle eight of some kind, but it’s indicative of the different shots he could have in his locker.
If ‘Mayday’ has a hint of prog about it, ‘Judge A Man’ gets back to basics, with a patient slow blues on which Patlansky goes all Albert King on an excellent extended solo. Better still though is ‘My Dear Boy’, on which he contemplates his young son’s future in a manner that’s both reflective and positive, carrying an openness to possibility. It’s a simple and lovely tune, propelled by some breezy strumming of an effortlessly Hendrixy variety.
The scary thing is that I reckon Patlansky still has untapped potential. I find myself pondering where he could take the proggier influences he’s described in interview. If he had someone like Steven Wilson in the producer’s chair, what far horizons could he explore with a couple of tricky time signatures and a sinuous rhythm section?
But never mind my leaps of whimsy. Perfection Kills confirms that Dan Patlansky is a big hitter. He can deliver big riffs with a modern twist to them. He’s as expressive a lead player as you could find, when he puts his mind to it. And while a couple of tracks here may lag behind the rest, more and more he shows capability as an imaginative songwriter, whether with the challenging social commentary of ‘Too Far Gone’ or the delicacy of songs like ‘Mayday’ and ‘My Dear Boy’. If there’s a New Wave of Classic Rock rolling in, then Dan Patlansky is surfing it.
Read the exclusive interview with Dan Patlansky here.
Perfection Kills is released on 2 February.
Dan Patlansky tours the UK in March, supported by Mollie Marriott.