Yeah, the title is a little twee (hey, it's something his daughter said!), but the music contained inside
ICU in Dandylions is nothing short of remarkable.
Regan Barger is a pop craftsman of the highest order, making fun, upbeat songs reminiscent of a cross between the Beatles and Michael Penn. But Barger, Ray Hartman, Dane Estepa, and company have serious messages lurking just underneath these light and fluffy tunes--lyrics about divorce, addiction, and love for one's child that are as moving as any of the oh-so-sincere ballads now on the market.
ICU in Dandylions opens with a real stunner that hints at things to come, "Mr. Indecision." Rich Beatlesque harmonies, passionate lyrics, ear-filling sound (Phil Spector would be proud), and rather Lennonesque vocals. The mood lifts musically, but not lyrically with "I Feel Bad," one of those songs that are difficult to pull off properly--upbeat music, downbeat then redemptive content. The spoken parts don't hurt. A Patrick Warren-like organ bridges this song into the next, "Junkie," which speaks most of a Michael Penn influence due to the phrasing and the presence of the organ and loops.
A rare blues influence rears its head in "Selfish Sadness," co-written with bassist Ray Hartman. Jay Mabin's harmonica stands in for the wails that underline the lyrics. The guitar in "Grain of Sand" is reminiscent of Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea-era PJ Harvey. The song tells of how he felt about his daughter's birth and includes the unnecessary rhyme, "a grain of sand is very small." This song is a little too multi-directional, not seeming to have a sure course. "Never Be the Same" (another Hartman collaboration) would be a standout on any other album, but simply suffers in comparison to the other masterful tracks on
ICU in Dandylions.
"Look at Me" provides an interesting break from the hard pop with its acoustic guitar and its carousel rhythm as Barger tries to reassure his daughter that even though he and her mother have separated, they will both still be there for her. The bass takes to the fore in the opening of "Embrace" but the song becomes another bland one. Not so with "The Ocean Makes Her Cry (Tara)," which comes out as a mixture of Beatles and INXS with a "Strawberry Fields Forever" section of organ and "recorded" voice and hard, electronic-sounding drum track.
A rousing horn section leads into the rollicking "The Crutch of Every Fool." I'm consistenly amazed by the songs on
ICU in Dandylions--that BrokenNess manages to combine such downer lyrics with happy, danceable music to create songs that make me sway while making me think. They do it again with "In a Song," rocking out to lyrics like "who I was is gone, now it's in a song."
The title track is very much like you would think a song whose title was written by his daughter Moyra would be--very soft, slow, and sweet. A ballad to her--complete with 12-string guitar for depth--written as a love song. "U Won't Believe" closes the album, perfectly combining the Beatles and Michael Penn comparisons into something that is truly original and that ends this album perfectly. It's an anthemic, mid-tempo number that sounds very much like the last song on a movie soundtrack.
Regan Barger can really write great tunes and the only ones that feel lacking on ICU in Dandylions are the ones that are still good but sound as if they could have been written by anybody. Barger and BrokenNess are bound to be forces to be reckoned with--the music is too good not to be.
BROKENNESS: ICU In Dandylions
Mix The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’, Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’, a recovering heroin addict, the faith and love of a child and the power of music and you get the new, darkly inspirational CD ‘ICU In Dandylions’.
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