Sophomore efforts are often notoriously inferior to a band’s successful debut (think Spin Doctors, Georgia Satellites, Hootie and the Blowfish). Only the very best artists avoid the Sophomore Slump, the dreaded second album, by releasing a more compelling effort than the first. Sidewalk Dave have grabbed that old albatross by the throat and throttled it into submission.
When a near-tragic accident threatened to halt the momentum of last year’s critical and popular success, Dave Van Witt and the band had a decision to make: wallow in misfortune by drowning their sorrows in cheap whiskey, or embrace the situation as a creative opportunity (also with cheap whiskey). Consider this The Beatles, on whiskey instead of acid or pot.
Bands who write whiskey-drinking songs are a dime a dozen, but Sidewalk Dave have raised the bar considerably, crafting an album inspired by, written while, and recorded under the influence of alcohol. This sounds like frat-boy fun and a recipe for sloppy songwriting, and in the hands of lesser musicians it certainly would be — at best — a clever gimmick. Sidewalk Dave pull it off. These guys are true artists.
Due out April 1st, Gold Liquid Mischief, like last year’s Songs for Cowards, is filled to the rim with rousing anthems about embracing your fears. Written in a mere seven months, these songs relate the highs and lows of days spent in a liquid amber haze, while keeping a bleary yet sharp eye on the goal of creating a unique work of art. This was no mere excuse to drink, but an act of sublime desperation.
They’ve descended deep into the gutter, rolled around for a bit, screwed their courage to the post, and ascended with a very mature and enthralling album.
The addition of new members Gabriel Cruz on lead guitar, and Patrick Dalton on trumpet, gives these songs new depth, especially on “Violence and Music” when Van Witt sings, “Music and peace sound weak to my ears. How much can you change without shedding a tear?”
Bruce Kings’ insistent drums drive the songs forward, particularly on the syncopated backbeat of “Holy Pocket Blues”, a mature wink and nod to Songs for Cowards’ “Wallet.”
“Lonedrunksome” is as pure a drinking song as ever there was, complete with its drunk-dialing reference, yet ethereal with windchimes that carry over mysteriously to the title track featuring lines like this: “Your tongue is a ghost from the Underworld. It’ll haunt you with slurs of dirty words.”
“Vodka Perfume” tells of a woman who keeps a bottle in her bathroom, running “drunken errands in her BMW” while her kids think she’s simply wearing Vodka-scented Eau de Cologne.
“Godless Universe” has the fuzziest, most memorable guitar riff since “Satisfaction.” Not only that, they attempt to rhyme the word ‘orange’ and nearly succeed. It’s an anthem for the thinking man. That in itself is worth the price of admission.
The album closes with “750ml of Spirit”, a rollicking, chugging romp about a drunk preacher. “Whatever works for you, Reverend.”
Play this one at full volume on a drive in the country, but just don’t drink and drive. Besides, Sidewalk Dave has drunk enough for us all.