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Cheri Dahl's "Hollywood Meltdown" Reviewed

Lo Fi Dahl

Lo Fi Dahl

Imagine Chrissie Hynde fronting the Velvet Underground in full on “Pale Blue Eyes” and you will have a feel for Cheryl Dahl’s achievement on her debut album, Hollywood Meltdown -a blue moody beauty of an album at a lithe 23 minutes over eight songs of minor key strum and melody topped by one of the best singers around.

Nobody who saw Cheryl blow away the audience at rock nyc’s concert last year has any doubts as to her gifts, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar she was a mesmerizing figure with a huge range which she maintained somewhere in the middle and a sound so purrfect she can whisper with intensity and bring you in. On Hollywood Meltdown, a lot of that feeling survives and thrives.

The album opens with three masterpieces culminating in the title track, follow it with two deep album cut before steadying itself for a strong close. “R N Roll Baby Jane” is a post goth haunted house of a track with a perfect underplayed lick near the top and an undertow through to the end and it followed by the even better “High Heels” with a Dylan like question for the ages, “Do you know how it feels to be strutting on a mountain top in your high heels?” This culminates in the title track, a song so strong you wonder why it isn’t being heralded everywhere; performed , like every song here, with an intense quietude. Given Dahl’s professed disinterest in modern indie, it is remarkably similar to lo fi indie. There is a patience to the song constructions,  a sort of waiting for you to reach out to it.

Lyrically, Dahl is as good at a catechism, “sometimes I feel so crazy it gives me the creeps”, as she is as a tall story (one of an ex-boyfriend making out with another woman is a doozy) or a self-improvement manual “love is a place that keeps you home, all the scars you hide all the boats you row”. Dahl can be a superb lyricist, she is excellent at prose poetry, at staying away from the cliche and, as she says at the outset, “There are some things that can’t be explained”.

In these songs, Dahl exemplifies a musical intensity, a meeting of soulfulness and electricity, “Green Tourmaline” is built around a crystalline guitar break that brings life to her metaphor for love, it is so strong it draws you up and gives you pause, it makes you think. And on the next song Dahl makes “Sucks to be you” sound like both a schoolyard chant and a glorious hook.

The stories add up, from a blues blast of condemnation that comes on like a epitaph to a rock and roller who can’t grow up  to a break up  song seen from the deep future with a lyric that sounds like a private conversation, overheard and as the stories add up so does the picture fill in. Though only 23 minutes in length the songs build to a self portrait of a tough, brooding, disappointed, powerful in love singer distilling her abilities to its essence.

If musically, the song is an immovable object of tempo and sound, both the tempo and the sound are well sustained and sound great and if you are wondering where Cheryl goes from here, where her Chrissie like growl and sweet Lou sorrowfulness will take her, I have no answer for that but I do know this is a perfect sustained album for a starter.

Grade: A-

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