Why do so many rockstars evetually find religion, like it was something they dropped along the way? Isn't just being Bob Dylan or Bono a messianic enough of a thing by itself? With ou service economy in full lotus bloom, we are always looking for ways to streamline the final solution, and that goes for religious tinged art. Daniel Smith begun his ecstatic revival-tent themed journey back in 1995 as an senior art school project titled Danielson - a subversive mix of old time family gospel, smabolic indie rock and bizarre cult-like enthusiasm. Having gone through a number of name changes over the years (Danielson Familie, Tri-Danielson, Br. Danielson) over the he has come full circle on the aptly titled musical vessel Ships. Smith definitely occupies center stage with his compelling raspy whine cutting through the impressive crew he's assembled here, including his bothers and sisters, Sufjan Stevens, members of Deerhoof, B.A.L.L. and even Shellac's Steve Albini.
The joyous choir of hand claps and Godspell freakouts will evoke other recent choir directors like Stevens or The Polyphonic Spree's Tim DeLaughter, but Smith's production has a decidedly more schizoid, feral tint to it. "Did I Step on Your Trumpet" starts off like a Philip Glass horn array until it quickly descends into a cartoonish warning fable that is equal parts Cab Calloway, Flaming Lips and Tenacious D. "When It Comes to You, I'm Lazy" and "My Lion Sleeps Tonight" are fractured sunset love songs, doing battle with more volcanic numbers like the majestic "Kids Pushing Kids" and the endlessly ascending "Five Stars and Two Thumbs"
Smith's Pavement meets Pentecostalism routine never gets tiring on this album, since it veers wildly form quiet moment to full explosion without losing its course. It has touches of New Weirdness folk about it, but Daniel is not floating in the ether, he is plotting his eminent invasion of your soul. With a documentary about him making the rounds at film festivals, and our appetites for wide-eyed boys with a knack for orchestration whetted by Sufjan and Devendra, the time for Smith's peculiar vision may just be nigh.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com