Saturday, February 2, 2008

CD Review: The Damnits “Songs For Sugarpants”

by Dave Schaefer

The Damnits officially release their CD Songs For Sugarpants tonight at CBR’s. Rumor has it that lead singer/guitarist Bob jokingly introduced his then-band at a near-empty venue as Dick Darnit and the Damnits. The name stuck around and was shortened to just The Damnits. That was well over a decade-and-a-half ago and they’re still here and still putting out quality work.

Songs For Sugarpants captures The Damnits surprisingly well. From the opening track “Want Love” to the tongue-in-cheek “Biscuits and Bluegrass” to the entirely enjoyable cover of “Here Comes the Rain Again,” the CD delivers a solid alt-pop-rock sound with just enough garage to still give it that old-school feel.

At first listen, the overall CD, although exceedingly appealing, comes off as a simple matter. By no means will you drown in the depth of lyrics, but you certainly will want to wade in, if nothing else than for the cool feel of The Damnits sound. And you’ll undoubtedly find yourself discovering more and more in the songs that make you want to keep revisiting it.

Here’s the song-by-song rundown:

Want Love
The Damnits do Bri-pop. And actually do it pretty darn well. This track works well as an opener -- strong and solid. The vocals sound excellent on this in-studio version. The live recording of this song lacked what this one captures, creating a song that sounds more live than, well, the live version.

This song is one that I felt was easily overlookable on first listen, but it’s now grown on me to a point where I feel the CD would be lacking without it. It’s an intentionally subdued rock anthem that succeeds in creating a moody, quietly powerful song.

My Best Friend
I really like this song. Simple and sappy, it’s just the right collection of notes and words put together in such a way that you can’t help but picture a crowd swaying back and forth in unison, lighters upraised. But don’t even think about raising an open cell phone. Not at a Damnits show.

Biscuits and Bluegrass
Gone is the rather anemic harmonica of the older recording of this track, which was my least favorite thing about this song previously. The vocals are now stronger and it also has a more solid finish. The words are a collection of crowd-pleasing cleverness and the guitar work is well-crafted. “Biscuits and Bluegrass” is just a damn fun song.

Although I like the lyrics of this track, the song overall is, well, incomplete. It seems to want to be something different, something better, but never quite achieves it. Instead it simply becomes that song between two others that’s over before you realized you were even listening to it. It has nice vocal notes, but it generally leaves you still tapping your foot to “Biscuits and Gravy” and anticipating “Here Comes the Rain Again.”

Here Comes the Rain Again
Local bands seem to always play covers at shows, but rarely do these songs actually make it out of the studio, let alone be included on an album. We get to benefit from The Damnits choice to go against the norm and include this Eurythmics cover on Songs For Sugarpants. Though I wish they would’ve lent a little more of themselves to the song, it’s still well-done, very Damnits, and a great inclusion.

Just As Well
Take the Columbus garage sound and give it a folksy-sounding verse and you’ve got “Just As Well.” I like this catchy song, but I can’t help but picture it on an episode of Gilmore Girls. I’m not exactly sure if that’s good or bad. I’m leaning towards bad. Fortunately, they include the word “fucking” in the lyrics -- perhaps to ward off any Gilmore potential.

In another attempt to shun any possibility of Hollywood-pop sensibilities, The Damnits close with this guitar-driven power track. The riffs are simple but completely addictive. The lyrics are likewise simple and punk-filled. Want to mosh? This is the song to do it to. Quite possibly my favorite song on this CD and one that makes you want to click the replay button and listen to Songs For Sugarpants all over again.

The Damnits CD Release Show
Tonight (Feb. 2) @ CBRs

w/ Stretch Lefty and Seen Tru

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this cd. It's always in my ipod.