Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Darn Floor ~ Big Bite

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daniel amos darn floor big biteDANIEL AMOS
Darn Floor ~ Big Bite
Alarma
1987

The eight studio release for Daniel Amos – and also the final release of theirs in the 1980s – Darn Floor ~ Big Bite finds the band’s music going back to a more guitar-driven sound. The title, of course, is famously derived from an incident with Koko the gorilla, who was trained to understand limited amounts of American sign language. After an earthquake, Koko reacted by signing, “Darn darn floor bad bite. Trouble trouble.” So, the band used this as a way to highlight mankind’s oft-inadequate attempts to describe God.*

That previous bit of information is always included in pretty much every review I’ve read on this album; however, my friend Terry Glenn was the first one to inform me of this, and was far more entertaining in the delivery. Anyway…

The album starts with the song “Return Of The Beat Menace”, which seems to be it’s angriest song on the record. Not “angry” as in “loud and grating”, but more to do with the lyrics married with the more driven pace and guitar hook of the song. Like they had a bit of something to say about certain criticisms being lobbied at them. Or something. It’s a good song to kick things off, regardless. “Strange Animals” takes things back to a normal – for Daniel Amos, anyway – pace with a nice jangle pop hook; the title track “Darn Floor~Big Bite” is a bit darker, but has a good bass hook at the beginning before it settles into a nice groove; “Earth Household” continues things with a slower pace, one of those not quote a ballad, but with a dark, kinda Peter Gabriel style going on; “Safty Net” picks things up with a faster, punkish pace and an Elvis Costello kind of hook and an interesting guitar riff; “Pictures Of The Gone World” is upbeat yet melancholy, with a waltz beat and a more avant gard style; “Divine Instant” is more of a psychedelic, slide guitar, kind of Chris Issac style song; “Half Light, Epoch, And Phase” guitar style reminiscent of The Edge from U2; “The Unattainable Earth” has a nice psychadelic, dreamy hook with a good guitar progression; and “The Shape Of Air” ends the album with a lush, psychadelic ballad, not too bad there.

Overall, I found Darn Floor~Big Bite to be a very good, very multi-textured and very smart collection of gutiar-based alternative rock put out by a band that, by now, you would expect nothing less from, regardless of how modified they make their moniker. Listening to this was a pleasure, and probably one of my top favorites from Daniel Amos. I really do prefer the guitar based stuff rather than the keyboard and synth based stuff, but they never seem to disappoint no matter what they do. Recommended.

[* = while it doesn’t pertain to the album itself, I did play this in its entirety the night I learned of the recent death of Koko…rest in peace, pretty girl]

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Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Fearful Symmetry

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da-fearfulsymmetryDANIEL AMOS
Fearful Symmetry
Alarma
1986

The seventh studio album by Daniel Amos, and the fourth and final instalment in the !Alarma! Chronicles, Fearful Symmetry is also the first Daniel Amos album to feature the shortened DA form of the band’s name. A vast collection of useless information, that’s me.

The tone of Fearful Symmetry was a bit darker than the previous releases (although, the band could venture out into darker territory on the previous albums easily enough), utilizing a synthesizer-driven sound with lyrics that deals with pain and darkness. That’s not to say that the music is depressing and melancholy; far from it, really.

The album starts off with “A Sigh For You”, which features something of an upbeat hook that echoes that of The Pretenders from that era, kind of an electro-calypso thing going on. The following track, “The Pool”, has a rather driving beat with a catchy hook, while “Sleep Silent Child” is one of the darker cuts on here, a bit slower and utilizing a kind of melodic structure based on the James Bond theme. I rather like this, it may be my favorite cut on this album, really. Now, before anyone begins thinking that they sold out their sound and went more mainstream with the songs, it’s on the song “Neverland Ballroom” when the familiar experimental style that Daniel Amos is famous for really begins shining through. The hook from that song will stick in your head almost indefinitely. This continues on with “Strong Points, Weak Points”, “Instruction Through Film”, and the psycho-folk bluegrass with a power-ballad twist ending of “Sudden Heaven”. Yeah, I just wrote that out loud. I’d say it’s “different”, but this is Daniel Amos we’re talking about, here. “When Moonlight Sleeps” is a surreal bit that manages to be both melancholy and happy at the same time; “Shadow Catcher” has a good driving midpaced dark hook, while to album ends on “Beautiful One”, an acoustic !BALLAD ALERT! for those on the lookout for those kind of things.

Overall, Fearful Symmetry continued on with the development of the band’s creative music output, making something that was contemporary for the time it was released, yet maintaining their unique style and quality of songwriting. It’s dark, but it’s more contemplative kind of dark. It’s kind of hard to explain for those who prefer their Christianity to be bright and sunshiny; regardless, if you’re a fan of the electronic based pop rock custom-made for dancing and brooding to, Fearful Symmetry is recommended listening.

Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Vox Humana

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daniel amos vox humanaDANIEL AMOS
Vox Humana
Refuge Records
1984

It’s funny what you tend to run into at local small town thrift stores. For instance, I was looking around a small second-hand thrift store in a town called Oakland here in Nebraska, and among the odds and ends and various other nick-knacks abounding, I spotted in a box of stuff a CD copy of Daniel Amos’ sixth release, Vox Humana, which I purchased for a mere $.50. For those curious, this was the 1992 CD release from Refuge Records, as previously the album was only released on LP and cassette formats. Pretty good condition, nary a scratch on it. The cover booklet was what you would call bare bones, but I really couldn’t complain.

Anyway, Vox Humana, compared to the preceding two releases, is more of an electronic synthesizer-driven New Wave album, with flourishes of the kind of musical creativity that you would come to expect from Daniel Amos. I wonder if they chose the more synthetic style of instrumentation here as a kind of commentary on the plastic-ness of the culture at the time of the early-to-mid 1980s. Or, maybe I’m just reading too much into something that wasn’t the intention. I tend to do that sometimes. As such, though, this results in Vox Humana not exactly being a frequent player in my album list.

Don’t get me wrong, as a New Wave album, Vox Humana is a good, solid release. Things kick off with “Travelog”, a bit of a dark, mid-paced tune with a driving beat and a spacey feel to it. This is followed by “(It’s The Eighties, So Where’s Our) Rocket Packs”, the structure of which reminds me strongly of The Buggle’s song “Video Killed The Radio Star”. One thing I’ll give this album, the songs at least maintain the varying structures and craft that Daniel Amos excels at, like with the plastic calypso of “Home Permanent”, the quirky rockabilly of “It’s Sick”, and the driving punkish “Dance Stop”, which is a popular crowd participation song when played live, I’m told. “Live And Let Live” has great Beatles-esque melodies and a psychedelic vibe, whereas the followup to that is the skipable ballad “When Worlds Collide”. “As the World Turns”, “She’s All Heart” and “The Incredible Shrinking Man” all maintain the catchy pop hooks. The album ends with one of my all-time favorite songs, “Sanctuary”, kind of a dark, almost 80s Gothic style song that always gets me in the feels.

As I mentioned, Vox Humana is a good, solid release from Daniel Amos; it’s just that I’m not necessarily in the mood for New Wave as much to listen to this one too frequently. There are some cuts on here that I do enjoy more than others. The production of my copy, which I presume was from the original mix that Refuge put out, is decent, if a bit thin at times. In 2016, Stunt Records released a remastered two-disc special edition, so if you’re wanting to check this out, I would try and get that one.

Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Doppelganger

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daniel amos doppelgangerDANIEL AMOS
Doppelganger
Alarma Records
1983

Daniel Amos’ fifth release continues the overall Alarma Chronicles concept, something that I still have no idea what the story itself entails. But, at least the second part itself, Doppelganger, is a rather good entry in the series. Also, it’s a great classic New Wave record in its own right, methinks.

Having a bit of a darker tone than that of the previous release, Doppelganger nonetheless manages to maintain the high quality musicianship and writing, putting out a very detailed and multi-textured album, filled with some of the best writing going as well as showcasing the bent sense of humor the band was famous for. If that wasn’t evident by the album cover–a slightly unsettling monochrome image of a mannequin–then you’re not paying attention.

The album itself kicks off with a brief yet mind-twisting intro “Hollow Man”, played backwards with spoken words and an avant-garde bent, which leads into the first proper cut of the album, “Mall (All Over The World)”, which is an infectious and dark New Wave cut with a funky bass hook that will get into your head like none other, there. “Real Girls”, “Memory Lane”, and “I Didn’t Build It For Me” feature that kind of New Wave style, yes; but like with their previous releases, the band branched off into other styles while keeping things unmistakably their own: “New Car!” has a cool rockabilly style, almost psycho-billy in a way before that became a thing; “Do Big Boys Cry?” isn’t necessarily a ballad, but it comes close; “Youth With A Machine” and “Little Crosses” are guitar-driven with some good hooks, while “The Double” and “Angels Tuck You In” are more janglepop, with the later having a classic Elvis Costello vibe to it. “Distance And Direction” has a Caribbean vibe to it that reminds me of another song from that time, the title of which escapes me greatly; “Autographs For The Sick” is another avant-garde tongue-in-cheek spoken word bit over ambient played music; the final song, “Here I Am”, has a very Beatles-esque somber-brite quality that just burrows down into your brain and will have you whistling it absently long after the record ends on the second part of the “Hollow Man” intro.

So, as I’m coming to understand the further I look into the Daniel Amos discography, you can’t just casually throw on a Daniel Amos record in the background and leave it; Doppelganger as an ablum begs to be listened to, closely, to take in the various textures and layers and lyrical play melded together into a whole. The production is fantastic, and you can tell a lot of time and careful crafting went into the making of this. I’m just now beginning to realize why the band ranks so high on everyone’s list of influential Christian bands. This release comes highly recommended.