David Dallas: Falling into Place (Dirty/Universal)

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David Dallas: Southside
David Dallas: Falling into Place (Dirty/Universal)

In times to come when collections of contemporary New Zealand poetry are written (if not published in the form we have been used to), you'd like to think recent lyrics by Miriam Clancy, Moana Maniapoto, the Veils, Dubious Brothers, Lorde and people like Mareko will be in there as a reflection of who we are/were.

And I'd be astonished -- if not outraged -- if lyrics from this sometimes exceptional album by David Dallas aren't included.

Even on a page words like those from Southside -- the posted track here with Sid Diamond and Mareko -- are ripped from the streets of South Auckland and convey so much about us/them/this place. "Round here it ain't that simple," is the key line about the cliches he exposes.

In such pieces Dallas astutely puts the microscope on this country but also acknowledges -- as so many serious literary people conspicuously fail to acknowledge -- people here listen to/read about/are influneced by/define themselves in a global context.

Our references aren't just local like the Mad Butcher and John Kirwan (who appeared in lyrics by Mareko on his White Sunday album) or Anika Moa, rugby player Andrew Mehrtens and Salmonella Dub (on Scribe's The Crusader) but here Dallas weaves in references (and not just lazy rhymes) to Sex and the City - maybe a bit after the fact -- and Al Pacino, Spike Lee, Beyonce . . .

But it's when he speaks from the sense of this place that this album really connect: Transmitting Live is groove-riding chant-down challenge ("you think you're the man, I'm here to fuck up your plan, a little pedantic . . ."); Follow with its appeal to displaced young Samoans in Auckland ("don't forget about your roots . . . don't forget where we came from, got our names from, people I'll lie next to in the ground when my day comes . . . island roots, Auckland ways").

There is dark blues here (that hypnotic single Runnin'), uncertainty about life as much braggadocio ("I'll be a hard act to follow" sounds rather hollow in the context of Gotta Know) and sensitivity (the almost-love but largely-needy How Long).

With guests like Ruby Frost, PNC, Sync and others -- and smart samples --  this album also has musical breadth, but at the centre of the frame are Dallas' supple rhymes and astute observations of thw world around him, whether it be a very neighbourhood view (Follow) or something larger about how people can be hooked by the seduction of image (the unsettling Local Celeb).

As he says, "any photo looks good from the angle".

The angles here are strident/sensitive, assured/filled with doubt and local/global. And poetry.

That's quite some feat.  

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