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Danko Jones – Below the Belt

About two years ago, I picked up Danko Jones’ Never Too Loud and, well, I didn’t care for it. I don’t think I’ve listened to it since then. Since then, I ordered their b-sides collection (named, creatively, B-Sides) and enjoyed it, but I still wasn’t holding out a lot of hope. And yet, when I was surprised to find Below The Belt at the record store – seriously, I need to start paying more attention to release dates – I decided I’d give it a chance. I never learn.

Sometimes, it’s good to not learn from past mistakes.

Danko Jones is one of those acts that does one thing really well – in their case, it’s loud driving rock songs about sex, rock, personal awesomeness, and the non-awesomeness of others – and Below The Belt is a return to form. Really, I could go through the whole album and assign each song to one of those categories, and I am perfectly fine with that. Before the first song is over, Jones is threatening to "fuck you up." On lead-off single Full Of Regret, Danko doesn’t bother mourning lost love, so much as a lost evening. Although… I can’t quite figure out the symbolism behind the song Magic Snake – whatever could that mean?

The highlight might be the album’s closer, I Wanna Break Up With You. If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d draw a pie chart showing that this song was 10% about sex, 25% about personal awesomeness, and 65% about the non-awesomeness of others. What starts as a spirited list of grievances leads into the chorus, a lilting choir of Dankos declaring their intentions of moving on. The happy Danko choir also sings "I hate you" at one point, which I shouldn’t find as funny as I do. There’s no self-pity here and this is is not Song For The Dumped – this is Song For The Dumper Who Has Been Waiting A Bit Too Long For This Moment And Is Going To Make It Count. Eventually, the song breaks down (breaks up?) into an army of Dankos leading a chant of "break up, break up, everybody break up." This should be a single.

I love you, Danko Jones. Let’s never fight again.

(P.S. I totally gave in and I’m listening to Never Too Loud now, and, yeah, it’s still nothing special. Sorry, dude. We cool?)

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Danko Jones – Never Too Loud

One of my great joys is finding new musical treasures. Today, I stopped in at the local HMV on my way back from lunch. I was already running late, and I was certain they wouldn’t have anything I wanted, but HMV keeps doing this bastardly thing of finding one new release that I really want, and dropping the price to $9.99 so I can’t say no. It’s just so… reasonable! And lo and behold, I found a new Danko Jones album! I love Danko Jones! What a surprise treat for me! I had heard rumblings that a new album was being worked on, but I had no idea when it was coming out. A happy day! My ignorance paid off!

So I took the album back to work with me, tossed it into the ol’ corporate laptop, plugged in my earphones, and prepared for the full-on aural assault that I have come to expect and love from Danko Jones. And I’m still waiting.

I don’t review a lot of albums on here because I am no good at actually describing music. I can post concert reviews because I focus on all the extracurricular activities that surround the show itself, but I don’t really know from music. I don’t know when someone is or is not in tune. I don’t really understand what “pitch” is. I know only a limited number of adjectives and I beat them all into the ground. I can’t play an instrument at all and I don’t know when someone is or is not playing theirs well. As such, I will defer at this time to Chart’s review of Never Too Loud, where it claims that “Never Too Loud sounds like an album, rather than a close approximation of the real thing. The songs feel more finished here, unlike some found on previous discs where emotion, rather than articulation, was key.” Interesting. So the album is more polished than his previous albums (and the live shows), but that polish has come at the expense of emotion. This is much more explanatory and articulate than my email to

, which summed up the entire album like so:

“When did Danko Jones get so pussified?”

I bought a new car, and just yesterday, I was thinking that a Danko CD would be great driving music. I still think that – just not THIS Danko CD. Indeed, this album has done a great job of making me want to listen to his other albums.

There were actually two sentences in that email to

. The other was “This album is barely about fucking or touring at all!” I see now that this is not entirely accurate. I can’t really find fault in the lyrics on this new record, since Danko’s songs have always been… single-minded? I guess that’s a good way to put it. A bunch of songs about girls and another bunch about the power of rock. And these themes are still explored on this album. Girls = hot, rocking = awesome. Fair enough – a good scientist always repeats his experiments to ensure consistent conclusions. It’s just that the passion isn’t there. The fury isn’t there. Ravenous is almost sweet. And the song Never Too Loud just kind of made me feel sad for the old man who’s losing his hearing.

Given all the songs on this album, though, Never Too Loud was the best choice for the album title. Not once did I have to turn it down. Danko had already done that.

Danko Jones (September 20, 2007)

How are you? I’m feeling unmotivated but otherwise well, thanks.

So we saw Danko Jones. “We” being me, Mika, Rob, and Dave. Mika had originally introduced me to Danko’s music, so she was the experienced veteran of the team. We (this time meaning me and Mika – try to keep up) had seen Danko last year, and I’ve heard the albums, so I had some significant Danko experience. Dave and Rob, meanwhile, were coming into this cold. Dave knew only one song (it had been featured in wrestling), whereas Rob only knew what he had seen on YouTube after agreeing to come along.

Mika and I arrived at about 8:30. Dave and Rob were already there, discussing Dave’s mystery giftcard. Rob is a fan of giving giftcards for people’s birthdays. He is also a fan of not telling you the amount that is on them. Dave’s giftcard was marked by a handwritten equation that read greater than zero but less than infinity. Which was kind of too bad for Dave, as an infinity giftcard would be pretty sweet. Actually, the infinity symbol looks like an 8 on its side, but what Rob had written looked more like two zeroes touching, so I thought the amount was greater than zero but less than double-zero. Confusing. Luckily, I had to deal with no such thing when Rob gave me a giftcard for my birthday earlier in the year; the amount line was filled in with “I DON’T KNOW I STOLE IT.”

We had time to kill, as tends to happen, so we had drinks and nachos. Or rather, Dave and Rob had nachos, and Mika and I stole their nachos. And we chatted, mostly about Rob’s parents who – judging from an old picture he discovered – were members of the Olympic Sex Team. The jokes wrote themselves. Go for the gold! The Special Olympics Sex Team! FIVE INTERLOCKING RINGS!

Actually, I don’t know what that last one means. Also, I only thought of it right now.

Anyway. The first band was called Mad Young Darlings. It took several tries before we figured out what they were calling themselves, and really, we weren’t certain until Danko Jones thanked them during his set. My best guess was Mandarin Something-or-other. They were almost all wearing red and black. One guy had eye makeup. Rob suggested that they stole their outfits from My Chemical Romance.

The lead singer lady was personable enough, repeatedly thanking the people who were paying attention, and (jokingly?) telling “the people in the back who think we suck” that we didn’t have to worry, there were only six more songs before Danko Jones. I wanted to yell “YOUR ATTEMPTS AT HUMOUR CONTAIN AN UNCOMFORTABLE ELEMENT OF TRUTH,” but I’ve never been the type to shout stuff out at rock shows. And anyway, I didn’t think they sucked. I wasn’t in love with them and I wouldn’t go out specifically to see them, but I wouldn’t run fleeing from the room if they opened for someone else. The rest of the table seemed unimpressed by them, but Rob, Mika and I agreed that compared to Something About An Elephant, they were sensational. Faint praise, I guess.

The turnout at Louis’ had been unimpressive so far, and it didn’t really get better as the evening went on. When Danko and his band took the stage, the first thing he commented on was the “soft crowd,” but he promised that they would rock just as hard – if not harder – so that the people who didn’t show would later learn that they had missed out. To give you an idea of the turnout, he later made a comment about playing “in front of 100 people. Who am I kidding? 60 people.” I haven’t heard from anyone who was at the Regina show the next night to see if attendance was any better there. It was a Friday, and Danko does get some radio play in Regina, so hopefully that helped.

Throughout the show, Danko would digress about famous Canadians that he doesn’t much like. Ben Mulroney was on top of the list, but that’s not real interesting since everyone hates Ben Mulroney. However, Danko’s also not a fan of Emily Haines (of Metric) or David Usher (formerly of Moist). He never really went into detail as to why, which was kind of a shame, but they were still top-notch rants. He talked about people filming said rants and putting them on YouTube, and several people in the crowd had cell phone cameras out, so if you really care, you could go look and see if anything’s there.

On occasion, he would stop ranting long enough to sing songs. Like I said, I had seen Danko in Regina the year before, and that makes it hard to write this. As I said last year, there’s no mistaking a Danko Jones song. They all sound the same, and they don’t quite sound like anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly fine with them all sounding the same because they all sound awesome. But it doesn’t give me a lot to write about, musically. My last review says he didn’t play Cadillac last time. I’m glad I wrote that down, because he played Cadillac this time, and the previous lack of Cadillac (that I had entirely forgotten about) meant that I appreciated it more. After the fact, I mean.

I should point out that the bass player didn’t say a whole lot, but I still found him tremendously entertaining. I don’t know if I can even explain why. He was just clearly having a good time and that’s always fun to watch.

So yeah, they played a lot of songs, Danko talked about a lot of people, and closed after sharing his mantra: “this heart gets stronger, this skin gets thicker, this mouth gets louder.” Ultimately, the show was quite similar to the one we saw last year. That was a great show, so I was perfectly fine with this. And everyone else seemed perfectly fine with this show as well. I don’t know if it will lead to everyone telling two friends and Danko returning next year to a sold-out crowd, but one can hope. The packed house was the one element of the show that was lacking, and besides, it’s nice when something that’s actually good gets popular.

FREE MUSIC: Mad Young Darlings / Danko Jones

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