The Danish group, Danophone, recently released their debut album called Rerun. And it’s pretty good, as long as you understand that album consists of what I call bluesy worksongs, which are defined as slightly bleak tunes whose purpose is curative. The tunes emanate the inherent sadness of the blues, while simultaneously allowing the composer, the band members and the listeners to work through their disillusionment with Life.
On the one hand, the songs are a form of venting. Simply getting it all out. On the other hand, the songs reflect the composer’s efforts to make sense of what’s going on his life. In the latter sense, Danophone’s tunes are musical self-help, a kind of mental and spiritual therapy.
Ethnomusiclologists, I assume, would consider Rerun an aberration because Denmark is supposed to be the happiest place on earth, and the band hails from Aalborg, Denmark, which is supposed to be the happiest city in the happiest nation on earth. Of course, Disneyland claims it’s the happiest place on earth, but that’s just marketing. Which just goes to show how parochial mankind is after all: everyone, even those living in Denmark, suffer the doldrums.
A little discussion of the band’s name seems appropriate. Danophone means “Danish speaking by birth or adoption,” according to the band’s vocalist, Carsten Nielsen. And I can see a double or triple entendre in the name, as if the band has its collective tongue-in-cheek.
Danophone’s members are: Carsten Nielsen, who sings lead vocals and plays, guitar, bass, keyboards and saxophone; Bertil Bille sits in the pocket (drums and percussion); Tino Pederson provides background vocals and plays guitar and bass. Nielsen and Pederson are journalists in their other lives, while Bille is a professional musician.
Danophone’s music is reminiscent of John Mayer, or perhaps Bruce Springsteen. But essentially, the analogy falls a bit flat because Danophone’s sound is quite distinctive, if extremely melancholic. The most optimistic song on the album, which includes eleven tracks, is “City of Kings.” But no one would describe it as cheerful.
As you would expect, lyrically, the album is a downer. In fact, it borders on too much dreariness. The insertion of two or three so-called happy, peppy songs would break up the linear misery and allow the band to demonstrate their versatility and explore more energetic melodies. I suspect both Pederson and Nielsen are capable of some nice guitar licks, if they were in the mood. But getting in the mood would mean popping some Zoloft to relieve the gloom they’re suffering.
On a happier note, I do like the raw sound of the production values. The music is not highly stylized, which adds poignancy to the tunes. And except for the almost overwhelming despondency of the music generally, the group is capable of writing and play nice melodies.
All in all, Rerun is worth a listen. Just be sure you’re in the mood.