Pictures From Life's Other Side

Johnny Dowd

Koch Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Have you ever had the experience of listening to an album that was so bad that you found yourself wishing for death to come so you didn't have to listen to any more?

You're lucky; even if I think an album is the biggest slab of toxic waste to come from this side of Three Mile Island, I have to listen to every god-damned note. And after going through the experience of sitting through an album by Johnny Dowd, I can honestly say that I would rather perform a home vasectomy by removing the grill from the hallway fan than sit through one more listening of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Pictures From Life's Other Side, Dowd's latest.

Listening to this disc reminded me a lot of the first time I ever heard Tom Waits. On first listen, I wondered who the hell would buy such cacophany. Over the years, though, my palate has expanded to the point where I recognize a lot of Waits's work that I like. There's one difference between Waits and Dowd, though: I don't see myself becoming endeared with Dowd down the road. It would kind of be like French kissing a live light socket.

Dowd is a folk singer/songwriter who couldn't carry a tune even if he had a bucket the size of New England. He tries to weave textures of vocal and sound into some of the songs, but the end result is like housepets being put into the blender.

Sounds a bit harsh, doesn't it? The first track off this disc, a cover of Hank Williams's "A Picture from Life's Other Side," features Dowd with so much twang in his voice that you'd swear he was just plucked from the plantation to sing this one. It literally hurts the eardrums - and is not a good sign of things to come.

To Dowd's credit, there are moments where brief rays of hope shine through. Tracks like "Hope You Don't Mind" and "Wish I'd Been Honest" dare to suggest that there might be method to the musical madness. Unfortunately, any hope you gain is quickly crushed.

Tracks like "God Created Woman," "The Girl Who Made Me Sick," No Woman's Flesh But Hers" and "Ballad Of Lonnie Wolf" all help to seal this disc's fate. This disc is just unfocused, unpolished - unlistenable.

And if this isn't insult enough to the listener, there's a hidden track on this one. One word: WHY?!?

Pictures From Life's Other Side is a painful listen that is the kind of disc you own only to put on when it's time to get rid of the company who won't leave. In Dowd's case, these Pictures should have been "accidentally" destroyed by Foto-Mat.

Rating: D-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Koch Records, and is used for informational purposes only.