If you are thinking about songwriters who don’t write about romance HARDLY AT ALL , there is only Arcade Fire and Tomas Doncker left. I’ve wondered about this but have never been put my finger on why the True Groove Records CEO has spent a career eschewing the number one subject matter of all lyric based music since lyric based music happened. Yes, his debut solo album, 2007 Inside Out belies the comment, and by the time of his sophomore effort, Small World Part II, “Licence To Love” was an outlier and “Children Of Darfur” was the signpost up ahead despite the occasional blues heartbreaker.
From there there has been entire albums of Ethiopian politics, Americana black migration, pre-BLM racism, and post-BLM racism, and more. The result is that Doncker’s video album, seven songs and three remixes, is not what you might expect: it isn’t lovey dovey on you and while “All About You” itself is a deep love song it clearly isn’t a romantic love song. The acoustic feeling good mantra that opens it, “you do what you want to do it when you want to do” becomes even deeper when see the video, directed by Carly O’Neil, with a father and daughter growing together through the years.
Christopher Padula’s whirlwind, agriculture protest screening is a string visualizing in blood and vampires for Doncker’s take on “Maggie’s Farm” -a Dylan cover up there with Jimi Hendrix and the O’Jays, where Doncker growls and spits through an electric guitar evolving of the song into a dynamite riff, improved with Doncker spitting “ain’t gonna do it” with complete comfort and his extended “woah” over four bars, into is a raucous meeting where the incipient racism of the US South is morphed to an all inclusive blood sucking and blood letting.
If the two towering, very different songs are the highlight of Born To Be, “Born To Be” is a slice of personal politics banging its head against the wall with Alice Teeple’s exploring of both the subconscious and conscious pandemic nightmare. Patti Smith’s “People Have The Power” -both electric and acoustic versions have the Smiths Family seal of approval is a blueprint, “Doesn’t Make It Alright” is The Specials agitprop, and finally William Murray’s video for “Don’t Let Go” deals with the homelessness that The Mess We Made dealt with straight on.
Born To Be finds a meeting ground between his New York centric apocalypse quiet 2020 Wherever You Go and angry protest 2015 The Mess We Made, with an accent on the visual which reminds you that Doncker was the man in blackface on “Some Ol’ Dolls”. As we await for the multimedia Endangered this summer, Born To Be is a thrilling place keeper and a standalone giant.
the effects pedals have greatly helped him transform his guitars into basses
Last January The Weeknd was # 1 and though that album was better than Trippie’s, the rest weren’t
Sam’s best to date
featuring Renée Zellweger on vocals
a mini women in music summit
a soothing palette
seven weeks at # 1