Although it's tempting to lump Bill Madden in with the recent spate of sensitive male singer-songwriters, who know exactly what to write to get laid, Madden is far closer in spirit to the Adrian Belews and Rivers Cuomos of the world. With lyrics more political than personal and a wide range of instruments not heard in music much anymore, Madden has something to say.
The man gets the sensitive stuff out of the way early, and as such the first few tracks are rather dull, although the words of "Weight of His Words" instantly recall gasbags like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck: "His ego blows up like a hot balloon / He speaks of things he thinks he knows / In syncopated measured tones / He sees himself a sage in robes / But I see a fool." The song "Might Have Been" recalls Dire Straits...a bit slow, but the string section adds to it.
But once that stuff is out of the way, the disc gets interesting. "Gone" is one of the better songs from 2006 that nobody heard; former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin - who adds weight to this whole disc - plays an off-kilter rhythm, while Madden does his best Cuomo vocal (think "Hash Pipe") and adds a guitar crunch. It might have you pressing the Repeat button.
"Dangerous Game" is an anti-war rant ("It's easy to rationalize when it's someone else's life," Madden whines), set to a sorrowful acoustic guitar and some well-placed keyboard effects not found in modern music anymore (is that a Wurlitzer?) Billy Mohler is responsible for most of these odd instruments (a toy piano, a Mellotron and Tibetan bells, among others).
"What In The World" is a slow dirge with an ominous minor-chord build in the chorus and some sparse guitar fills, taken down a notch for Madden's whiny voice, which doesn't fit the mood the music tries to set. "Art of Being" is better, the drawn-out Mellotron notes and spare drums telling the story. Much of this is not found in modern music, or at least not publicized at all, so it's good to hear a songwriter branching out and trying different things instead of sticking with an acoustic guitar.
The closing track is driven by Chamberlin's rock drums - he hasn't sounded this good in years - and Madden's delivery of rather simple hippie lyrics. Strong Lenny Kravtiz vibe but all Madden, and a good way to end things. Despite a slow beginning, Gone remains an intriguing listen from a sensitive male singer-songwriter with something more to say.
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