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European Oils

Weird folky art rock pretension, like Bowie’s Hunky Dory turned up to eleven. Dan Bejar half-sings half-rambles over grandiose backing tracks of guitars and pianos, and the whole thing sounds like a poetry reading backed by a classy Spiders cover band. The pretense of his intonation would be harder to endure if he took himself more seriously, but fortunately Bejar, like Jimbo Morrison, knows that his shtick is kind of goofy. And the music itself has so many graceful eccentrities that it forgives some of the poetic affectations of the vocals. Bejar also a penchant for finding nonsequitars that resonate (“Walk the watercolours into the ocean,” “It’s 1987 all the time”), so that the otherwise rambling freeform poetry of the lyrics begin to make some sense. I used to think that this album was front loaded with the best tracks until I realized that I was just shutting it off halfway through; the second half is almost as good if you give it a chance. It’s just that I can’t take dramatic affectations for more than a side at a time. For all that Bejar takes from Bowie, he forgets to throw in a “Suffragette City” here and there, something that just rocks, man. Maybe that’s my problem, though.

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