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Shawn David McMillen - Dead Friends

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Artist: Shawn David McMillen

Album: Dead Friends

Label: Tompkins Square

Review date: May. 7, 2010

It’s fitting that an album dedicated to those now gone should begin with an ending. “Walking Home (At The End Of Night)” sounds as bereft and weary as a blues can be whilst paradoxically putting a bit of life into an old form with its use of environmental sounds and odd tunings. It also serves notice that while this Shawn David McMillen, a Texan multi-instrumentalist and Imaginational Anthem alumnus who has played in Ash Castles On The Gold Coast, Steve Gunn, and Tom Carter might play the blues for his friends, he’s by no means bound to them.

McMillen’s recent Listed selections prove that while he has some sympathy for rustic sounds, he’s got a weakness for rampant weirdness, which he indulges all over Dead Friends. Two tracks on from “Walking Home,” he’s tracking belligerently repetitive guitar and wordless vocal tracks over some entropic electric racket. The more you want “The Moth” to develop, the more it denies you, at least until you figure out it’s the noise, not the picking, that’s supposed to take you wherever you’re going. Why it delivers you at the feet of “No Time Left In This Place,” a woozy fiddle lament, is a matter for speculation. Perhaps the point is how out of place the tune feels when placed between the aforementioned insect’s funeral and a maelstrom of wailing electric, guitar, slowed-down piano, and drums that sound like they got knocked into the song from a bar fight next door. Wherever we’re at, the music seems to say, we’re out of place, and we won’t be there long.

At any rate, McMillen won’t be; he’s gotta make some industrial chaos, faux-Japanese kalimba meditations, and a bit of Sun City Girls-style cough syrup drool to track before the record’s done. Death never rests, and neither does the McMillen the commemorator.

By Bill Meyer

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