Published: Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Tom Waits introduced Paradise, Calif.-based Danny Cohen to the Anti- label, and there's no denying the similarities between the two artists. But Cohen is no Waits wannabe; if anything, the veteran songwriters both drink from the same inspirational trough. On Gunna Die, Cohen evokes Waits, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and Bob Dylan with gravelly tales that ooze tragic beauty and seedy film noir. The album's central theme is death in all its forms (two band members were reportedly battling cancer during the recordings, with violinist Jimmy Borsdorf succumbing in January). But the minor-key melancholy of these 16 songs isn't nearly the downer you'd expect. Instead, a darkly droll, bittersweet appreciation of life in all its pleasure and pain unspools. Cohen's narrative is filled with observational gems, from the out-of-body experiences of "As I Look Down" to ill-fated "Cousin Guy" working at Disneyland, living on a kibbutz, and losing his mind, among other things. And there's no shortage of eccentric non sequiturs like "iridescent rectums that resemble marine life." At least that's what I think he said. Your results may vary.