Dan Bern
 
 

“My Country II” (COOKCD330) Released Monday 1st November 2004

DAN BERN FLEETING DAYS (COOKCD255) Irish Release 28th March 2003
 
 
 
 
 

“My Country II” (COOKCD330)

Released Monday 1st November 2004

This just in. The President is wearing no clothes. And with My Country II, Dan Bern sets out, in no uncertain terms, to reveal the stark naked emperor behind George W. Bush. Mission accomplished.

Dan has never been one to hold his tongue, particularly about vitally important current events, and lucky it is for an American public browbeaten and bullied by the Bush administration. Why mince words at this crucial historical juncture? Dan certainly hasn't on this trenchant EP, as empathetic as it is angry, and as comical as it is concerned for his country.

My Country II isn't your garden-variety Bush-bashing, fun as that sport tends to be. The record is pointedly direct yet amusing and musically on-target. Even fair-minded and clear-sighted Republicans will find things to admire on the album. Perhaps not the opening "President," a satirical alternate history that lampoons the Commander-in-Chief as clueless while setting out Bern's own version of what he'd do in his first 10 days in office. But all can appreciate the heartbreaking soldier's-eye-view of "After the Parade," moving sociology that looks more deeply than any newspaper headline or human-interest story ever could.

The record also connects to the storied tradition of musical dissent in an inspired fashion, as Dan sets Pete Seeger's poem "The Torn Flag" to music. And "Bush Must Be Defeated," goes the straightforward refrain of the rousing concert singalong that closes Dan's call-to-arms.

That pretty much says it all. Vote in November. It's your country, II.

 
 
 
  DAN BERN

FLEETING DAYS (COOKCD255)

Irish Release 28th March 2003

What does the fiercest, funniest, most tender-hearted folk-rocker on the scene do when he grows up? If it’s Dan Bern, he makes Fleeting Days and caroms his scathing free-associative takes on pop, politics, sex and culture to a staggering new level.

Over the course of his five official recordings and the many EPs, performance-only specials, and soundtrack contributions the man and his lethal guitar have recorded since 1997, Bern has been finding the big picture in the small — whether plumbing the infinite sadness of being Van Gogh’s overlooked son or describing a horrific breakup through the gentle light of an Italian holiday. With Fleeting Days, Bern processes the monumental, sifting through the rubble of increasingly distant youth and devastating world events, and comes up with gems of insight and emotion.

Comparisons to Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello are inevitable — Bern is reflexively literate, in the style of his favorite authors, including L.A.’s legendary bohemians Charles Bukowski and John Fante, urbane fantasist James Thurber, and yarn-spinning humorist Ring Lardner. Bern is in love with the power of words to turn on themselves, to frolic, to bite, and his strong, friendly voice can go from earnest to ferocious within seconds. But Fleeting Days is beyond folk and beyond irony. In “Baby Bye Bye,” love is music and music is love, and neither has to be “good” to be full of meaning. An impotent “Superman,” unequal to saving this mess of a world, hangs up his cape and puts in a call to Lois Lane. With a full band behind him and a bag of tricks that encompasses a vast musical spectrum, Bern sounds as big as he thinks. The joyous synth-pop of “Jane” rejects Einstein’s theory of relativity for the simple pleasures of thinking about a girl; the adamant “Crow” moves punkishly fast and takes a stand — this is the sound of a man putting his psychological house in order, deciding what’s important and chucking the rest. Bern finds that the rock and roll life is a “Graceland” of the mind, a place where everyone who loves music can live, with or without a living Elvis. And “Closer to You” might be a love song, but it’s intense, ominous, and elliptical, strewn with broken glass like a potent, painful affair.

The nomadic Bern, a Mid-westerner-turned-Angeleno now residing in fittingly quirky Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, has always had an outsider’s wry vision. He grew up in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, informed equally by the wholesome wheatiness which inspired his longtime passion for sports in general and baseball in particular, and his Jewish immigrant parents’ artistic leanings (he played cello as a child) before decamping for the West Coast neo-folk scene in the early 1990s. His self-titled 1997 album stunned critics new to the sophisticated smart-ass sounds of Dan Bern; songs like “Marilyn,” “Jerusalem” and “I’m Not the Guy” attracted swarms of fans tired of folkie self-righteousness and a general lack of fun. 50 Eggs produced the cult hit “Tiger Woods;” the double album Smartie Mine contained the raucously self-referential “Talkin’ Woody, Bob, Bruce & Dan Bern Blues;” and 2001’s intimate road epic New American Language deepened and widened Bern’s purview with gorgeous, thoughtful fables of love, faith and regret. Fleeting Days comes after the scathing The Swastika EP and sport-song cycle/book World Cup. Dan Bern continues to bring the funny, but this time he’s smuggling it within 13 musically eclectic songs, a wider worldview, and his most sophisticated recording to date.

 
 
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