Gordon Gano and the Ryans: Under the Sun (YepRoc)

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Gordon Gano and the Ryans: Home
Gordon Gano and the Ryans: Under the Sun (YepRoc)

While the solo career of multi-instrumentalist Brian Ritchie has been the most rewarding of the Violent Femmes because of his interest in world music and the jazz of Sun Ra, as the Femmes vocalist Gano was always going to have a more distinctive profile.

With the Femmes effectively disbanded -- Ritchie lives in Tasmania -- Gano steps out under his own name with the Ryans (guitarist Billy and keyboardist/trumpeter Brendan) for an album which lacks a conspicuous breakout hit like the Femmes’ Blister in the Sun but still scores with some sharp songs.

There’s a slightly reflective, if not melancholy, mood at work across many of these 12 tracks (“why did I wander, why did I roam?” he offers on the mop-pop Home) and in the closing overs there’s a smattering of Jewish/klezmer sounds on the Biblically influenced Oholah Oholah.

The best here are the beautiful, Cohen-like Here As a Guest; the dark Talking Heads-influenced Wave and the Water; the piano ballad Still Suddenly Here which changes musical course a number of times; the reflective title track and the relentless pop-rock of Man in the Sand which sounds as close as these songs come to Femme-like crossover success.

Gano’s distinctive and edgy voice carries this material and if they are sometimes musically lightweight (Hired Gun, the 50s pastiche Way That I Creep) or weighed down their earnest lyrics Gano is saying something worth hearing. 

A slow grower.

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