Perfection kills. That’s the idea behind Dan Patlansky’s approach to his latest album which happens to bear that title. Looking at the artwork it’s evident there, too. With perfect calligraphy before ruined with a neon sign which features a letter needing adjusting. How fitting. After having made his mark with Dear Silence Thieves, it was years of work finally paying off.
Whilst his name may only be more recognisable in recent years, it’s proof of that old famous mantra: “Build it and they will come”. With this, his ninth album, Patlansky has opted to self-produce after having learned at the hand of Theo Crous during Dear Silence Thieves and its follow-up Introvertigo. Whilst the production on those two albums were clean and pristine, Patlansky has opted to present himself in a more rough-around-the-edges form. It suits him but he doesn’t become overbearing with it; the shiny, perfect moments are still there, most notably in the solos.
Without preaching, there are several moments where Patlansky takes aim at the problems in the world. Not making them into political pieces, it’s more of the problems humanity and society are facing at large, at a human level. “Too Far Gone” is the one which strays closest to the minefield of politics as greed of the upper-classes and a tangerine with access to the nuclear codes takes pot-shots at another world leader, 280 characters at a time. Meanwhile “Mayday” looks at the concept of people becoming ever more wrapped up in their own lives and their own personal rat-race that they neglect those closest to them. With the title crooned several times at once against its soulful backdrops, there’s echoes of “Madison Lane” with its sombre tones.
Then, there’s “iEyes” and even before you hear the lyrics, you know what’s coming. A scathing swipe on humanity’s growing reliance on technology and being glued to a screen which connects you to the world. It’s the idea that in one swipe down a news feed, you can see people’s dinner, look at political developments and see stunning landscapes. And it’s this last one Patlansky puts more of a focus on: instead of looking at it on a screen, go see the world with your own eyes because no matter how fancy the tech you use is, nothing beats seeing the world for yourself. Elsewhere, Patlansky covers his family, tells stories of people with troubled upbringings (is it really a blues album if you don’t have at least one song on here about that?) and his own experiences of being a travelling musician.
Musically, Dan Patlansky hasn’t changed. There’s some excellent fretwork on songs like “My Dear Boy” and “Johnny”, both of which are unmistakably Patlansky’s signature sound. Funky riffs mingle with the cleanest, note-perfect solos. “Dog Day” with its dirtier tone and looming bass is reminiscent of “Backbite” and makes an excellent closer. Whilst Introvertigo was by no means a bad album, it felt like a companion piece to its predecessor. Perfection Kills feels more like the genuine follow-up, this partly comes down to the production but also with Patlansky’s own experimenting with his sound.
The pursuit of perfection does indeed have a hampering affect. By letting his hair down and not worrying about every single minute detail, Dan Patlansky has made a worthwhile album to sink your teeth into. Whilst he retains his signature sound, by playing with the production, he roughens himself up at moments but there’s still the pristine moments to show what he can do. A bluesman’s bluesman, while the two core sounds can be at odds, Patlansky manages to fuse the pair together into a cohesive sound and make one of his most interesting albums in years.
Header image by Tobias Coetsee
Perfection Kills is out now.