Dave Smallen

Everything Changes And Nothing Changes

Written by: DR on 23/01/2010 20:39:04

Before 2010 completely washes away the remnants of 2009 left in our mouths by striding into full-swing - resulting in a promo list as long as my...ahem - I will be reviewing a few releases from last year that I only found, listened, or appreciated once the new year was upon us. Today class, is acoustic singer-songwriter Dave Smallen. I first heard Smallen's music when someone from Circa Survive posted a MySpace bulletin (back when people still used it) promoting him, and urging people to listen. That was about a year ago, and he'd only recorded demos and such at that time. This, as you have surely guessed, is his debut full-length.

He was a founding member in Street To Nowhere, but since 2008 has been writing and recording on his own. Early signs were good, as his first single "America" was a damn fine song. However, it was almost too good, because it totally over-shadowed the rest. Out of the six songs I had listened to (though as far as I can tell, they were the only songs he'd recorded at the time) only "America" and "Everytime I Leave (I Leave For Good)", to a lesser extent, had sufficient quality that was worth any sort of attention. This is exemplified by the reality that those two songs have been included on this disc, and the rest, thankfully, have not.

"America" was, and still is, the money-shot. Is that testament to truly how good of a song it is, or an unfortunate case of tin-foil shining like a sapphire amongst a field of shit? It's the former. Fairly simple musicianship is repeated throughout the entire song, but your attention is drawn away from it, and towards Smallen's eloquent lyrics about his tough relationship with his motherland: "Well, I've seen this whole country, all the lonely spots, the highway stops /

Nothing really changes but the weather and the way people talk... Well I was walking through a casino in Las Vegas, I saw a plastic Statue of Liberty, and posed like Marilyn Monroe, completely absent of that silent iron dignity... I want to still love you America for all the things you've granted me, but I'm ashamed of you, America / How you convinced me we were free, and I, I take that personally." Nonetheless, he does go on to find something to love: "Oh, we're hung over, America / We need a shave, I need coffee / But I should thank you, America, 'cause I did not build this city." Chances are, you'll find something within that song to relate to. Even more likely is that, after sufficient patience, you'll fall in love with the song itself.

I realise that I have spent the majority of this review babbling on about that one song, but that's because it's head and shoulders above the rest. There's no denying it. I also realise that it's unfair of me not to mention the likes of "I Think It's Getting Better" and "With The Sky All Blue", both upbeat and catchy, and both have warranted repeats, and both have had me chorusing away. I'll never learn to really love this album as a cohesive work, for the reason that at all times, just a few clicks away, there's a perpetual reminder in that song of how great it could have been, instead of how decent it actually is.


Download: America, I Think It's Getting Better, With The Sky All Blue
For Fans of: Kevin Devine, Poor Bailey, Death Cab For Cutie's "The Open Door EP"
Listen: Website

Release Date 1.12.2009

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