SJD: Songs from a Dictaphone (Round Trip Mars/EMI)

 |   |  <1 min read

SJD: Lucifer
SJD: Songs from a Dictaphone (Round Trip Mars/EMI)

My guess is critical consensus on this album will settle on the phrase, "not as good as the last one". But that last one, the sublime Southern Lights of 2004, set such a high threshold that SJD (Sean James Donnelly) was always going to have that comment aimed at him.

That said, there is something to it: I Wrote This Song For You and Just Say No To The Disco Inferno here seem slight, if cheerfully poppy.

Yet everywhere else this Auckland multi-instrumentalist, songcraftsman and multiple threat offers such memorable songs and clever (but not clever-clever) ideas that this seduces at almost every turn.

So here are lovely ballads; vocal deliveries like Bono at his most sensitive best (Lucifer) or Roxy-period Bryan Ferry (I Am The Radio); suggestions of Penguin Cafe Orchestra quirkiness (the hypnotic Black is a Beautiful Colour); and gorgeous tracks such Beautiful Haze and The Last I Saw of Maryanne.

The trilogy of "religious songs" at the centre -- Jesus, I Am The Radio and Lucifer -- might be a matter of taste for some (they sound fine and even amusing to me). Lyrically SJD is as allusive as ever ("rise up and smash your beautiful chains"), but what is intriguing here is just how much 80s electrofunk pop (Roxy, OMD and Pseudo Echo -- which is a compliment!) has been assimilated into his own distinctive musical voice.

Remarkable stuff. So over the long haul, "not as good as the last one" seems pretty irrelevant.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Old Crow Medicine Show: Tennessee Pusher (Shock)

Old Crow Medicine Show: Tennessee Pusher (Shock)

Reviewers have struggled to label this Nashville-based outfit, but they certainly sit somewhere along the contemporary bluegrass (new-grass?), alt.folk/country Americana axis with nods to old time... > Read more

Various Artists: Louisiana Saturday Night Revisited (Ace/Border)

Various Artists: Louisiana Saturday Night Revisited (Ace/Border)

The liner note writer  Ian Saddler echoes my experience driving through Louisiana, being dumbstruck by the lively Cajun, zydeco and swamp pop coming out of the local radio stations. About... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

DAVE BRUBECK (2011): A jazz life of constant discovery

DAVE BRUBECK (2011): A jazz life of constant discovery

Dave Brubeck, whose hit album in 1958 was Time Out, understands time better than most of us. In December 2010 he turned 90 and although ailing, as expected, he had been playing right up until... > Read more

EVAN DANDO REVISITED (2017): It's a shame about Evan being bored with himself

EVAN DANDO REVISITED (2017): It's a shame about Evan being bored with himself

When Evan Dando emerged on the cusp of the late Eighties/early Nineties in the Lemonheads he was the gift to the grunge era. He was very good looking, part slacker but undeniably smart, had... > Read more