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Danzig in the Moonlight

The first time I saw Ken Stringfellow was on a Sunday morning photo shoot for The Posies' first press kit. The last time I heard from him, before this album at least, was when he contacted anybody and everybody about an album he had just produced for Aussie Hannah Gillespie (All the Dirt) for which I will be eternally grateful (the album is magnificent). Between those two times? Not much. Oh, I went down to their album release party for Dear 23, but that was to meet with old friend Gary Gersh who had been instrumental in signing the band to Geffen. I didn't see the band.

So I guess you could say that I knew Ken and didn't. I loved The Posies' early self-produced album which later showed up on PopLlama, liked Dear 23 and tolerated Frosting On the Beater, which had some pretty decent tracks, but completely lost track of the band from that point on. A handful of years ago, I picked up the trail again thanks to good friend Howie Wahlen who had been a huge fan from the beginning (and up to the present) and had helped the band during the early years. And I'm finding out now that it is a trail well worth following, backwards and forwards.

Both Stringfellow and fellow Posie Jon Auer have put out a library of music since those days, some as The Posies, some as members of a re-formed Big Star. Add to those the myriad of projects in which they each inserted a finger and trailing backwards becomes a monumental journey. I gladly accept Danzig in the Moonlight as the first stop.

Stringfellow worked on this (off and on, obviously) for eight years. Scoff if you want, but I hear a good eight years' work here. Eight years' hard work. Writing and separating and refining. Writing and adjusting and feathering. Re-writing and honing and and critiquing. Eight years! I hear every year!

Stringfellow includes fourteen tracks here, but you know he wrote way more than fourteen. There have to be riffs and themes and whole songs laying bloodied on the cutting room floor. Riffs and themes and songs that may show up in later Stringfellow projects but which I would give my left nut to hear right now. Stringfellow is a craftsman when it comes to writing. Occasionally, he is a true artist. Mostly what you get with Danzig is art.

Songs like History Buff, a slow rock ballad which builds to anthemic heights. By the time it gets to the harmonies, it becomes more than it is. I am always amazed when that happens--- when the song takes over the process. There are shades of Space Opera's Singers and Sailors which makes it more than just rock, and if you know the reverence I hold for Space Opera, you would understand what I am saying. Songs like 4 am Birds- The End of the Night, a densely layered, jazzy reach back to Strawberry Alarm Clock and Space Opera (and what a combination it is!). Songs like Drop Your Pride, dramatic and theatrical and powerful enough to have been included (in my mind) on another favorite album--- The Green Pajamas' Death By Misadventure (another album you should be checking out, if you haven't already). And the eighties-sounding (for some reason, my ears are screaming Squeeze) Shittalkers, as intense and dense as it gets, my friends. Listen to the music. Hear the words.

That's only four of the fourteen and I'm not even sure if they are the best. They are, though, the ones which caught my ear right off and will inevitably drag me through many many listens until, I am sure, the music will become part of my DNA.

Be forewarned, though. This is not an album for the initiate. This is intense, complicated and creative music which is well deserving of Linus's Several Hearings Award, an award given to only the best and only to albums which guarantee absolute enjoyment over many listens. You won't get this album right off--- at least, not how really good it is. There is just too much--- too many layers and too much to really hear, at first.

God, but I dearly love albums like this. I hear good albums all the time and some of them are way better than good, but few have the density which allows you to peel back a different layer each time. It is an adventure.

Top Ten for 2012? Easily, though I have to say that 2012 is turning out to be an amazingly productive year for topnotch music. Stringfellow did it right off, though, jumping in with both feet and implanting themes and songs in my head which refuse to leave. Right now, I'm looping You're a Sign and am taken by the flowing orchestral feel of the chorus. Next, who knows? Like I said, Danzig in the Moonlight is an adventure and when you listen--- I mean, really listen--- you have no choice but to go along. And it's worth it. Every time.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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