Danny Cohen

We're All Gunna Die

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Danny Cohen's We're All Gunna Die is his second Anti/Epitaph full-length; it picks up where his Dannyland left off. Despite its title, and the fact that in some way or other all these songs are about death, the album is far from depressing. It's full of lilting elegies and paeans to ghosts -- of street corner prophets, spectral poets, visionary artists, and ladies of the street and screen. Cohen's protagonists are, for the most part, marginal persons who deserve better than they got: -- their romantic dreams have been turned to ashes, but, like Job of the Old Testament, they find a kind of beauty there. Dream, nightmare, lullaby, carnival song, doo wop, rhythm and blues, jive, blues, country, 1960s' psych pop, vintage L.A. film score arrangements and angular post-rock, all weave and wind together seamlessly in the backdrop of an urban melange. Cohen's collaborators include Ralph Carney, the late Jimmy Borsdorf, John LaPado, Greg Cohen, Snake How, and Charles Mohnike. The organic, simple base in each tune is stretched to its breaking point by spot-on arrangements that paint, texture (Cohen is a hell of a visual artist) and frame his songs. There's "Cousin Guy" with its early rock & roll street corner vibe that speaks directly to the disintegration of a person who has been ignored, marginalized, and coerced by outside forces until the he breaks and escapes permanently. Dark stuff perhaps, but it's so hummable and beautiful that its harrowing nature is offset. The gorgeous "Magritte," with its Mellotron, impressionistic piano, wandering steel guitar, and movie house atmosphere is one of the album's many high points. "As I Looked Down," with its retro-pop melody, looks affectionately at the world through dreams of having recently departed it. Its lyrical tenderness is elegantly illustrated by Cohen's double bass, a shimmering B3, layered guitars and bells. "Ghost Country Safari," is just plain weird, but oh-so-infectious with its slide whistle, toy piano, and organic percussion. Again, a Mellotron guides the rest of the proceedings down a winding, labyrinthine path into a country of spirits. In his own stubborn and savant way, Cohen is as important as Tom Waits, though he sounds nothing like him: he combines musical elements that have no business being together in song structures that make little sense to conventional ears yet he is utterly accessible and melodic. His lyrics are funny, poignant, sad and revelatory, they come from the font of human kindness, even if that kindness looks like the monster under the bed. We're All Gunna Die is Cohen's finest moment yet.

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