Artist: Danielson Family
Label: Tooth & Nail 1998
You just have to love this quirky band. They make some of the most original music out there. This is their third album, and they just keep getting better. This time, instead of just Daniel Smith, you get the whole Danielson Family. Their lyrics are at times humorous, at times very thoughtful, and usually interesting.
My favorite songs is "Pottymouth" with its "Leader of the Pack" feel. It's a fun look at cussing from a girl who doesn't understand the language she's getting from her date. This could be a big hit--it has a lot of radio potential (okay, maybe not CCM radio), and is one of several songs have a 60's feel to them. Song titles include "Rubberneck," "Holy Kisser's Block Party", and "Between the Lines of the Scout Sign." Admittedly, with their off-key falsetto voices, Danielson is, like most fine wine, an acquired taste, but if you haven't tried a sip, maybe now is the time.
By Shari Lloyd
You know, it's a funny thing. I think I've heard more Christians say "They suck" about Danielson than any other band, and yet the Danielson Family has gotten far more positive mainstream press than most other "Christian" bands. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned in that about why there aren't more musical pioneers in the Christian music industry.
I was one of those critics once upon a time, barely able to call the few Danielson tunes I'd heard "music." But now they're on their third album, and I dig it. The songwriting inches ever closer to pop catchiness with each release, without abandoning the essential weirdness that is Danielson. The brittle stop-and-go acoustic strumming, sparse drumming, carnival organ, and assorted bells, whistles, jingles, thumps, and bumps are all repeat offenders, as well as Daniel Smith's high squeaky, screechy vocals. There's a little more variety this time around, especially in the vocals, as the family (sister and brother) join in with more background vocals and shared spoken word dialogues. Dan even lowers his pitch several times! That's really the only thing that keeps me from raving about these guys--Dan's voice. It would be so much more effective if it was brought in for brief moments or a single song, rather than being the norm. Danielson's lyrics are so packed full of encouragement, rebuke, and edification according to Truth, and they're always couched in fresh imagery and language. As it is now, though, his style of singing is a stumbling block for many who would otherwise listen to and benefit from the spiritually delicious songs.
In light of that, the last third of the album really takes flight. "Potty Mouth" is one of the coolest tunes ever--two girls discussing a date's "strange language" when he gets hurt or angry, with Dan's acoustic guitar kicking a furiously groovy rhythm beside group whistling on the chorus. I love it, and so will you. A couple songs later, "Flesh" takes the cheap synthesizer beat you made as a kid, and together the band delivers a Dr. Seuss-poetry spoken word commentary on racism:
and WHITE flesh!
and BROWN flesh!
and RED flesh!
and YELLOW flesh!
and TAN flesh...
If all the fleshes that are flesh
want to establish a sensible similarity among differences,
we'd better forget the flesh and the colors it can be,
and think on the spirit and its singular light.
Otherwise, flesh, as a color, can be black and blue,
or even...a bloody hue.
These three songs alone are worth the price, even if you can't take Dan's voice on the other tracks. Keep giving Danielson a second chance...if this album doesn't hook you, the next one will.
By Josh Spencer