ALBUM REVIEW: Danbert Nobacon “Woebegone”

Record Label: Verbal Burlesque
Release Date: 19.10.10

Danbert Nobacon, together with Seattle-based folk artists The Bad Things, dares to bring us this banshee of an album with not so much as an ironic press release to make us understand it a little better. With my first listen of this album I was simultaneously aghast, pensive, taken-in, repulsed and toe-tapping. Because you see, dear reader, is that there are two very conflicting things within this album and below I shall outline what these are.

The first issue I have is that The Bad Things are a somewhat iconic and well established gypsy-folk band who have been performing together on street corners, underground gigs and grass-roots festivals all over North America for the past eight years. I am a big fan of this band, regularly checking out YouTube for any madcap performances at some illegal party or other. Apart from the debauchery and fall-out attitude of this band they are above all very talented songwriters and performers. The second issue I have with this album is the man himself, Danbert Nobacon. Over the top of some very beautiful compositions of guitar, fiddle and accordion is laid a voice so infuriatingly irritating that my first thought was to forego this review and turn the stereo off. But ever curious, I had to listen to it through and try to understand why, oh why, this album has been created. It sounds as though Nobacon is doing an exaggerated Tom Waits impression as well as suffering from a severe case of laryngitis. Not only that but it is hard to believe that this voice is natural. A point which got me thinking that is precisely what someone like Nobacon, who famously poured a bucket of ice over John Prescott at the Brit awards, would do. He has created a revolutionary caricature of himself and impressed it upon this album which, I fear, will only be to the detriment of the records success. But what can we expect from a man who originally went by the name ‘Nigel’.

All that said, however, Danbert  Nobacon is without doubt a brilliant lyricist. The main themes in this album revolve around sex, death and future worlds inhabited by two characters Johnny Woebegone and Lilithiana Red. It is an album unlike I have ever heard or are likely to hear in any mainstream medium. Several tracks stand out such as ‘We Got Married In A Frenzy’ and ‘Blow The Man Down’ which both benefit from the sound of female vocalist Madam Miss Funi. Title track ‘Woebegone’ is also a highpoint in the album. However best album track has to be ‘Frank Woebegone’s Lament’ a genius track which features the heartiest musical composition of the album but also the vocals of The Pickpocket, lead singer of The Bad Things.

This could have been a really brilliant album. It is well composed, it lets you drift away somewhere else for a while before dragging you right back and throwing you into a different musical maze. Danbert Nobacon is clearly a very talented musician and songwriter and collaborating with The Bad Things will have been his best career move to date. That can not take away from the fact that the voice he has chosen to adopt for this album is simply a hassle to listen to, unfortunately. I dare anyone to listen to this and not find it at least mildly irritating. I just hope he hasn’t sacrificed the truly good parts of this album in pursuit of a musical two-fingers up at the world.

Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Hugh Hamill


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