The career of this New Zealand singer/songwriter began in the '70s new wave explosion, where his group the Dudes had a series of hits in Australasia. A rocky path followed for Dobbyn in the '80s, and while his popularity of penning hits throughout the decade with his post-Dudes project D.D. Smash and occasional solo one-hit wonders surfaced, they failed to satisfy his creative urges, and the singer lived reclusively while his friends brother Neil Finn and Tim Finn saw great success post-Split Enz. Penning a soundtrack for an animated feature film in the mid-'80s, and being a scapegoat for causing a riot in his home city of Auckland, which broke-out during a free concert Dobbyn gave in a central square. A well respected songwriter, by the beginning of the '90s his music lived nowhere other than classic FM, until 1995 when a creative and experimental burst overcame him and old friend and producer Neil Finn. The result is this dark and complex collection of songs which explores a total inversion of commercial pop music values, in lyrics and production techniques alike. With many similarities to Elvis Costello's bleak Blood and Chocolate, Finn's production suggests some deep listening to that album as well as Nico's Marble Index and Robyn Hytchcock's Sometimes I Dream of Trains. Dave Dobbyn's songcraft lies in his incredible ability to nail oblique phrasing and texts onto streamlined melodies similar to John Cale, and even recalling Springsteen in that his voice is often a masculine belt. While his is one of those voices that can be hard to stomach, not that it is unpleasant but that it so raw it can be at times discomforting. "Naked Flame is the standout track to these ears, and an excellent stripped-back backing group is drenched in low-tech tape delay, and it almost evokes one of Townes Van Zandt's more disheveled Memphis moments.
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AllMusic Review by Dean McFarlane