Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong

width=250Taylor Goldsmith, songwriter of Dawes, hit the mark with this year’s collaborative release ‘Middle Brother‘ (also featuring John J. McCauley III of Deer Tick, and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit). He, his brother, and bandmates have been pretty busy themselves. The band is currently backing Robbie Robertson (The Band) at his request for his 2011 release, How to Become Clairvoyant.  Anticipation for Nothing is Wrong, the sophomore release, couldn’t be higher for this Los Angeles folk rock band.

Coming off of a great 2009 Daytrotter session that formally introduced the music world to their Laurel Canyon/Californian-soul debut, North Hills, everything is going Dawes’ way these days. Hard work and consistent touring are evident on Nothing is Wrong, but there’s only a few reasons to forge forward with repeat listens; Jonathan Wilson, producer, being the first reason. His production on  Nothing is Wrong is friendly and warm but it’s also a foil; there’s something grand missing here. Dawes can be a mean, nasty, live rock band capable of achieving anthemic, folk-rock heights—if that’s what they’re aiming for—and that’s largely missing here.

Dawes’ studio performances, tastefully recorded by Wilson to emulate the early 70s Laurel Canyon, CA studio recordings, are another reason to listen through once. See Jackson Browne’s self titled debut along with the follow up, For Everyman, and listen to Nothing Is Wrong— it’s dead on.  Goldsmith’s vocal could be a dead ringer for a Browne cover band, but I’d rather listen to Jackson Browne after a few spins of Nothing is Wrong; and that’s the overall problem with Dawes’ sophomore release.  The sound of 1970’s California has been done before, and better. I can’t avoid the thought that Dawes has managed to capture the sound of trust-fund ‘hipsters-gone-country-rock-retro-on-the-L.A. scene, begging for the sun’s forgiveness. That sound has little legs to run on out here in the Midwest, where the sun hides 2 out of every 3 days, and people are fucking poor, sick and tired. (Silent tip for the third record’s inspiration, guys.)

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Browne’s influence is unavoidable from the get-go (he also guest stars on a track, Fire Away).  Album opener, Time Spent in Los Angelos, kicks off with the line, These days, my friends don’t seem to know me without my suitcase in my hand.  ‘These days’, those two words, are also the song title to one of Browne’s finer moments on For Everyman, originally written for—and performed—by Nico. Try to avoid influential, Californian, musical connections from the start.  Super-session player and full-time ‘Heartbreaker’, Benmont Tench (Tom Petty), shows up for half of the record on organ, but his contributions are not the star here.  Goldsmith’s vocals and the bands understated harmonies are another quality reason for repeat listens.  So Wells slow-burn chorus & harmonies couldn’t come sooner or often; and so goes most of the record—fleeting moments at best.

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Let-down-listening certificates are issued after the last track, A Little Bit of Everything.  A wanna-be epic closer that directly rips off Desperados Under the Eaves by Warren Zevon, from his 1976 self-titled major label debut (which Jackson Browne produced).  Dawes is a great band capable of so much more than this, ripping off what’s been done better and before, or maybe they aren’t?  Quoting characters, Goldsmith sings, … pile on those mashed potatoes and an extra chicken wing, I’m having a little bit of everything, to then close out the record with, It’s like trying to make out every word when they should simply hum along, it’s not some message written in the dark. He couldn’t have described Nothing is Wrong and the songs that make it up any better himself.

Nothing is Wrong is safe, warm folk-rock music that’s sure to attract a few more fans to their growing fan base; but nothing sticks like the surprises that Goldsmith’s ‘Middle Brother‘ collaboration became, or the soulful, debut record for that matter.  Maybe they’re only as good as they want to be right now, respected for their live act while ripping off 1970s Laurel Canyon songwriters on record, and (yawn) that’s fine too.

Listen to Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon after trying to find something else that’s right about Nothing is Wrong; and there-in resides the only reasons you’ll need to try this record out at all—Browne and Zevon—start there instead.

AW

Dawes - Nothing Is WrongAndy Whorehall
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21 comments on "Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong"

  1. Trust fund hipster on

    Sure 1970s California has been done before, and maybe better…but can you give specific examples? There's certainly not a vast reservoir from which to choose from modern Jackson Browne tributes, is there? So who cares if it's been done before? It seems like your main beef with the album is that it's influences are so transparent. Never mind that it's a damn fine Jackson Browne update. If you prefer to simply stick with the source of the inspiration, fine. But not all of us do.

    I was glad (relieved even) to see a different turn from North Hills. Jackson Browne updates there aren't a lot of, but with Mumford & Sons, Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes and others there ARE plenty of new folk (beard rock) outfits out there. And North Hills was great, but it was definitely in that vein. So I was worried about the follow up ("Okay, guys, we really gotta out-harmonize those Fleet Foxes bastards on this one!"). I was happy to hear them take a turn that I think is more authentic to who they are. (So they had Jackson Browne guest instead of David Crosby)

    Finally, I find this comment very lazy: I can’t avoid the thought that Dawes has managed to capture the sound of trust-fund ‘hipsters-gone-country-rock-retro-on-the-L.A. scene, begging for the sun’s forgiveness.

    It reminds me of the equally lazy NME comment on the new Fleet Foxes: They’re the soy-latte house band of Starbucks. They peddle the same sort of fake-rustic rootsiness that seems to be colonising our era: all these flatpack off-the-peg dreams of Ruritania that iPad-stashing mid-lifes have taken up as a counterpoint to their rabid technophilia. They lull you in with their flawlessly polished music and hey-nonny-nonny you into a hypnagogic state, with the aim of making the world safe for the bland, the dull and the wi-fi enabled.

    Sigh. What pretentious BULLSHIT!!!! Do you not realize that this sounds like a High Fidelity parody?? Who gives a FUCK what their fans look like or what's in their pocketbook??! What shred of relevance does that have to, you know, the actual fucking music?!

    Lazy, elitist, snobbery bullshit. I've gotten worked up. I need to put on some 1970's Laurel Canyon sounds and go to a happier place.

    • Chip Copeland on

      Hi Trusty,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and give such a passionate response to the review. Please come back often and do it some more, we appreciate the feedback. xD

  2. Just so you know, not that you would care. but myself and many are in total agreement with your opponent. You lack to the good sense, or should I say trained ear to acknowledge a gifted songwriter, and equally important a gifted group of musicians. You go with you high minded, uneducated opinions. Looking at the credible reviews thus far…you are truly one persons thoughts…Hats off to you and take care….

    • Andy Whorehall on

      Jenn,
      thanks for reading. Who's my opponent? Lebron James? Or Trust Fund Hippy? Please clarify, either or still loses to you. You win, proving a lack of education on my part with an amazing command of the english language yourself was the clincher. I have your trophy; what would you like engraved on it?
      I'm happy that you've pointed out that my opinion differs from the herd. Moo. NOTE: You missed the point too. Did I say Taylor Goldsmith was terrible songwriter as you imply? No. Read again, sober up, read again, listen to Jackson Browne's first two records, proceed to the Zevon rip off I clearly state, and come on back guns loaded instead of gut loaded. Sober up, Jenn.
      AW

  3. You know the old saying…those who can't do criticize….so much for this guys opinion……ha, ha, ha….

  4. wow, lets not resort to child like insults…..Nothing personal, if taken so my apologies. I guess I came off high minded. I just truly believe in the music of this band. Don't forget this is their second release. They are young. Give them your ear in the future. I am hoping you will appreciate and respect their talent. Again, sorry for the ground war…..

    • Andy Whorehall on

      Let's wrestle over words. No apologies, thanks for reading and caring to comment, DEFEND YE DAWES!
      I dig the first record, and Middle Brother, but this is a write-off.
      Peace,
      AW

  5. Trust fund hipster on

    No, really, you didn't say much about the music at all. You mentioned Benmont Tench briefly. You mentioned the vocal harmonies briefly. The rest of it is bitching about how it sounds like Jackson Browne. And that's my problem with your review…it's certainly not in-depth, insightful or interesting. You repeat one qualm over and over again (it sounds like 70s Laurel Canyon). Okay, so, you're saying that it is derivative. That's the damn laziest music criticism around. The only time I think it has validity is when there is an obvious studio creation in response to a current trend (to be honest, after North Hills I was a little worried that that is what Dawes was….like I mentioned before…"If you like Fleet Foxes, you will love Dawes!") But this album shows that they aren't just another new-folk band. This is different than harmonizing and reverb. This is greatly influenced by some of their heroes, sure, but there's not a whole of this sort of sound being done right now.

    Of course I thought about The Eagles. To be honest, I hate The Eagles. Which made me wonder why I don't hate this. But I think it's possible to appreciate Jackson Browne and hate The Eagles, don't you? JB has a bit more singer-songwriter folk and a little less polish…but both are sun-drenched California.

    A folk-rock Creed??? Come on. That's crap. I think you might have a case for saying that about Mumford and Sons, but not here. I really, honestly don't think you mean that. I've seen these guys live and, as you mentioned, they are the real deal live. They're no Creed.

    So you don't like Pitchfork because they overhype Kanye and Bon Iver? Sometimes the hype is deserved, friend. Now that you mention Pitchfork, you have been a reminder of relativity for me. PF's reviews used to really piss me off. The elitist pretention oozing from it's writers was too much for this stomach. And, yet, reading your stuff I see how fair and balanced they are in comparison. For example, compare and contrast their review of the new Eddie Vedder with yours. Both have some praise and some very valid criticism. But the difference is, their criticism focuses on the music, whereas you, predictably, spiral into bitter and snark-tastic insults on their fan base and humanity in general ("people like to imagine being on a beach relaxing, not thinking")

    Look, AW, I'm not asking you to be Mr. Fucking Sunshine, but I am asking you to stick to the task at hand….evaluating the MUSIC and not the listeners. And offer something more substantial than "it sounds like an artist from the 70s who they obviously like".

    Thanks for listening.

    • Andy Whorehall on

      Thank you, the ultimate form of flattery for a writer is receiving an emotional response or two.
      Pitchfork used to incite emotional responses but those days are over. The #, a score, looms over every review, preventing emotional response. It's science for them. They get paid to play nice; but nice, at its core, is a foil for a lie. Their number system is a lie too; though we return to it each day to see what scores above a…. pick a #, let's say, 7.6. I don't get paid to play fair and until the Patriot Act or a paycheck instructs me to do otherwise (it is America after-all, it happens) I'll do and say as I please until the head Sock Monkey comes on down to slap my hands and band up my brain.

      Yes, Creed. They are no different than Creed, the frat boys are dying for a new band to fly their lighters too. Dawes is it and it's not their fault. I'm also pouring fuel on your fire.

      I wanted to enjoy this record, I didn't. It pales drastically, musically, to a release like Goldsmith's Middle Brother collaboration, also released this year. Believe me when I say I scratched myself to avoid saying The Eagles, Henley, Frey in the review. I'd rather know that an unknowing reader stumbling into this article would spend their money on Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon, than this sophomore record by Dawes. There's an entire generation of kids that have no idea who Browne or Zevon are- they must if they're coming to this page to read about Dawes. This record is forced, rushed, and the songs are not memorable; they're formulaic folk rock songs that dare to be more than what they really are-empty. They're tired and it shows. I'll stick around for what comes next because that Middle Brother record has the songs Taylor Goldsmith should've saved for this.

      It's true by the way; people love to pretend being on a beach relaxing, not thinking. How do you think Jimmy Buffett made a living? Minions love effortless, barely-skin-deep music. Mumford is just that too. I'll take Bon Iver, but there's not enough words to go on and on about them; that and, Pitchfork has us covered.

      Be safe, the mosquitos are out.
      AW

      • Trust fund hipster on

        Thanks, AW. I actually found the third paragraph of your recent response to be a better review of the album than your first. That's what I was looking for! I can take that as valid, thoughtful criticism. In fact, it's made me question some things about my response to the album. I still think the folk rock Creed is way off base, but we'll have to agree to disagree there.

        Your pitchfork numbering comments were pretty hilarious. Like I said, I stayed away from PF for a long time so I don't get it…it's it really supposed to have some value? I think it's sort of a joke. The fractions anyway. If you want to score something 1-10, fine, but what do I make of a 7.4? Honestly, is there thinking behind that? I ignore the numbers and just read the content. I have noticed less vitriol from them lately. So maybe they are paid to play nice. Or maybe they have grown to be less bitter people? Hey, it's possible to be a critic and not thoroughly unhappy, disappointed and overall disgusted, isn't it? Lester Bangs, wasn't he just a shock jock?

        And, I suppose you are right about being on a beach and not thinking. But living in Rockford, can you blame them?

        Your right about feedback, too. Scrolling around this site there is entirely too little response. More apathy from Rockford I suppose, but come on. Well, I'll be back. Careful what you ask for!

        Full of contradictions,
        TFH

        • Chip Copeland on

          Thanks for dropping by and contributing to the conversation as opposed to the apathy! You're alright TFHB) Keep it coming!

        • Andy Whorehall on

          I agree, please come back. Quality counter points and conversation is hard to come by. Thank you!
          AW

  6. FYI, I don't like Zevon or Browne… so take that AW!!:x

  7. FrankandJesseJames on

    I really like Dawes, but I think that this review is pretty right on. There's something about this album that is too derivative — even though I am a huge fan of what it derives from: the early JB and WZ records (all with the same core group of players on them and a pretty incredible place to find influence if you ask me) (please also note that I detest the Eagles and really don't think they're in play as a direct and conscious influence here — the JB/WZ thing is far more a direct influence). I expected more from Nothing is Wrong, and this album is just too mellow compared to how the same songs come off live. Pleasant to listen to (and some interesting nuances come out after repeated listens) but it doesn't measure up to the early 70's source material. But go see this band live and see if you don't have a great time. Hopefully they'll catch that fire on the next one.

  8. I came here because I thought they sounded a lot like Jackson Browne. I guess I'm not alone..

    All the best!

  9. I’m with Rob and Andy.

    Thank You.

    -Andy

  10. Your review is spot on! I heard “Fire Away” on the radio and thought it was a note for note Jackson Browne song, right down to the voice. Then I read people raving about the song and the sound like it was a new thing. Thanks for directing people back to the original music, when it was fresh and new…and original.

  11. I’ve been trying to find out the name of “Little Bit of Everything” for days now and I finally found it when I searched for “sounds like jackson browne”. This page was the first result. Really like that song, but you also inspired me to download the Zevon song with which I was previously unfamiliar.

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