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Daniel Ash: Coming Down

January 5, 2011

Daniel Ash Coming Down velvet flock bookToday’s roll: 2 – 6 – 10.
Result:
Coming Down by Daniel Ash.
 

I’m beginning to doubt the randomizing ability of my dice. If you’re an observant reader, you’ll notice today’s roll is only one digit off last week’s. You might also wonder—if you’re observant enough to surmise my CDs are catalogued in alphabetical order—why Daniel Ash is placed a mere four discs ahead of Magnetic Fields instead of in the A’s.
 
Well, dear observant reader, that would be because I sometimes file solo albums in with the artist’s main band. Especially if the album in question sounds almost exactly like their day job band. In this case that would be Love and Rockets and1991’s Coming Down does more or less does sound like the would-be follow-up to their eponymously titled 1989 album. Or, more accurately, the long awaited follow-up to Tones on Tail, his previous project with Bauhaus/Love and Rockets drummer, Kevin Haskins.
 

Really, Coming Down plays just like a Love and Rockets record but with bassist/songwriting partner David J replaced by Natcha Atlas. As with many bands where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that’s not necessarily a good thing. The album really highlights what David J brings to the partnership as a vocalist, songwriter and bassist. The latter trait is emphasized most by the aping of his playing style on “Candy Darling“.

Atlas, of course, brings plenty to the table as a collaborator, but this is clearly very much Ash’s boat and he steers it through waters familiar to Rockets fans—glittering waves of Bolan and Bowie with a little of Jesus and Mary Chain‘s North Sea squall. Here though, the waters seem a little shallow without another artistic vision to add depth. To be fair, David J’s solo albums from the same period tend to suffer the same fault (which is probably why the band reunited for another album in 1994).

The big college-radio hit off the album, “This Love“, sounds about as dated as a Madchester-informed alt-pop single from 1991 could sound. Kudos to him though, he managed to create a dead-on example of what Soup Dragons covering L&R’s version of “Ball of Confusion” would have sounded like. That could be both a good or a bad thing, depending on where you stand. I stand on the “good” side of the fence.

I really can’t separate the nostalgic memories of blasting the extended version of this song (off the cassingle) on my commute to painting class during my freshman year at college from the experience of listening to it now and trying to decided just how cheesy it really must be.

There’s a underlying layer of cheese to the whole enterprise, actually. The cover of “Day Tripper” is atrocious and the synthesizers in the background of most of the tracks are a little too lush and “of the time”. Even the creepy psychedelia Ash spent a career perfecting just feels a little shark-jumped here—almost in the realm of parody.

And that’s the bottom line on Coming Down. If you’re a Bauhaus/Rockets/Daniel Ash fan, it’s one of the better of his three solo albums. The production on the 1993 follow-up Foolish Thing Desire weathers a bit better, but the songs are less catchy. His more recent eponymous album should be avoided, if not at all costs, at some costs. Perhaps bus fare to get as far away as possible from the used CD store selling it would be reasonable (though the single “Spooky” and a few other tracks were actually pretty good).

Fans looking to complete their Bauhaus/Love and Rockets collection, might want to hunt down the promotional faux-velvet book version of Coming Down (pictured) to truly make it worth owning.

 

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