All Behind Me
Independent release, 2009
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/08/2010
I don’t, as a general rule, have anything against artists wearing their influences on their sleeves. Plenty of acts I enjoy do it, and almost every artist creating meaningful music is to some extent standing on the shoulders of those who came before them.
I have to admit, though, that I scratched my head a bit after reading Derek Daisey’s one-sheet, and then a post on his blog, both of which state his undying admiration and affection for… the Goo Goo Dolls.
This declaration is not what a lot of the musical cognoscenti would consider a promising path to earning positive press. To many, the Dolls’ “Iris”-and-onward incarnation feels like the very epitome of turn-of-the-century homogenized-to-beige-perfection commercial adult pop music, the sort of “rock and roll” that mildly depressed yuppies might opt for on long car rides with their mothers. Ah, but when you scratch beyond the surface of the rather obvious series of radio singles that followed 1995’s breakthrough power ballad “Name,” you learn that the Dolls rose out of Buffalo in the early ’90s as rowdy Replacements disciples, before gradually sanding every single rough edge off of their music.
The good news is that Daisey seems to have taken musical cues from the full arc of his idols’ career to date. Opener “Words You Bleed” establishes its hook early and delivers on every melodic promise it makes, even if its wholesale adoption of the latter-day GGD template of scrubbed-clean guitars behind ascending-descending couplets is almost over the top in places. “Not Myself” veers into similarly formulaic territory, a breathy-voiced ballad built around acoustic rhythm guitar, a gently picked electric hook, and soaring strings.
Fortunately, with “Josie” and “Tainted,” Daisey pushes away from the edge of the pool and starts swimming toward the deep end. Both push for a harder sound without sacrificing melody; to the contrary, the former’s hook might be the strongest on this entire disc, but unlike on the first two tracks, Daisey’s voice stretches into rougher territory, and the drums have more punch and bottom. The latter is in fact a genuine rock and roll tune, powered by chugging brio and vocals with an edge.
There’s more of the same triptych of styles the rest of the way as Daisey alternates acoustic-foundation ballads (“Stay Or Leave,” “All You Know,” “Gone In October”) with surging, blatantly commercial tunes (“Couldn’t Be More”) and edgier rockers (“How I Roll”). Closer “Where To Begin” is perhaps the finest work here in terms of stretching Daisey’s musical range, building around piano, finding and filling a solid groove, and featuring handclaps, tambourine and sweet Beatlesque harmonies.
The end result of Daisey’s work on All Behind Me is actually two. First, Daisey has delivered a consistently appealing album of adult alt-rock; it might lack either high highs or low lows, but there’s nary a misstep to be found here, and plenty of evidence of talent and drive. Second, thanks to the more interesting numbers here, damned if Mr. Daisey hasn’t piqued my curiosity about the pre-“Iris” Goo Goo Dolls…