Release Date: Nov 11, 2014
Record label: Weird World
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Folk
A star rating for Richard Dawson’s latest and most widely released album, is all but irrelevant. Those who like Nothing Important may claim it is a remarkable, heartfelt statement of individuality. Those who don’t may be unable to see its point. For this is music that actually sounds wrong: a guitar playing melodies that sound like some analogue of Les Dawson’s piano routines, or, as Eric Morecambe put it: “All the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.”.
Richard Dawson’s music often deals with death or disaster. The Newcastle singer-songwriter’s breakthrough album, 2011’s The Magic Bridge, features songs like "Grandad’s Deathbed Hallucinations" and "Man Has Been Struck Down by Hands Unseen", as well as a "Black dog in the sky/ Who pisses and slobbers all over the world." When looking for inspiration for his follow-up (2013’s concept piece The Glass Trunk) Dawson began with a database search for "death" at his hometown museum. The album’s a capella ballads, inspired by centuries-old news clippings, tell tales of mutilated horses, murder, and the moors.
Appraising art can be hard. Take music. Mere sounds fit to whatever order, and music’s inherent subjectivity can bugger up any recommendation. Sometimes discussing any art can feel like an elaborate exercise on who’s just putting on who. Is the pure white painting really a searing commentary on ….
If British freak folk discovery Richard Dawson seemed rather inscrutable on his debut album, 2012's The Magic Bridge, he's delivered a far bigger head-scratcher with his second full-length release, 2014's Nothing Important. While The Magic Bridge offered 12 pieces of varying length that found Dawson spinning tales that were sometimes charming and sometimes puzzling while he skittered about on his amplified acoustic guitar, Nothing Important sounds less composed and more improvised as Dawson reaches deeper into the well of noise and extends his focus with two numbers that run over 16 minutes, accompanied by two other pieces that seem relatively economical at 6:40 and 4:48. The shorter pieces are instrumental, while Dawson's vocals on the extended songs are often mixed low enough that they're a bit hard to make out, which isn't helped much by the often cryptic themes that emerge when you can follow him.
Since his 2007 debut, Newcastle songwriter Richard Dawson’s reputation within the UK’s underground folk scene has grown steadily. Now, after signing to Domino offshoot Weird World – home to Hookworms and Peaking Lights – it’s set to mushroom. Yet ‘Nothing Important’ is his most challenging set so far, its four songs including two instrumental showcases for his bizarre, nerve-jangling guitar style.
There's an episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry declines an offer to go and see legendary crooner Mel Tormé, aka the Velvet Fog, explaining that he "can't watch a man sing a song". I wouldn't go that far, but I sympathise. I have a tendency to relate far more readily to female voices. But then there's Richard Dawson.