Tooth and Nail
THE JERSEY-BRED Danielson is a Christian rock band composed of five siblings, ranging in age from 14 to 26. They take the stage dressed in nursing costumes, led by their eldest sibling, brother Daniel, a singer who bears an uncanny resemblance to Luke Skywalker and yelps like a cross between Frank Black and Jad Fair. This might sound like something grafted from a Pynchon novel, but Danielson is very real, very earnest, and very, very good.
Originally conceived as the Danielson Family for Daniel's Rutgers University senior thesis in religion, the group garnered significant critical attention with last year's superb funk-folk debut Tell Another Joke at the Ol' Chopping Block. And while it's hard to tell whether Danielson's college-radio fans embraced the combo for ironic yuks or listening pleasure, this genuinely strange group's heart is in the right place. And that alone makes them edgier than all the tongue rings and tattoos in Tribeca.
The band's third full-length, Tri-Danielson!!!, isn't quite as powerful as its predecessor, lacking both its swirling mantras (e.g., "I love my Lord!") and potent melodies. Yet it's an encouraging outing. Fierce acoustic guitars and kiddy hand-claps accompany Danielson's vocal squeals as the band bounces around memories of their childhood: harmonizing about the Big Guy in the Sky, paying homage to School House Rock, even quoting Barney the dinosaur. But the wildest departure here--both from the groundwork laid on Chopping Block and from the byways of contemporary pop in general--is "Pottymouth." Over sinister guitar chords and saxophone, the two Danielson sisters (Rachel, 23, and Megan, 21) use Shangri-Las-style sing-talking to recount a bad date; the song climaxes when Brother Daniel steps in at its final chorus, shrieking a puritan polemic against, gulp, cussing. Barbarously yelping "Won't kiss no potty mouth! Zip up that potty mouth" while a sax wails away behind him, Daniel leads the gang on a jailbreak from their seemingly prudish past.
Are they delving into self-parody or moving further toward saintly self-realization? Who knows? Either way, it's downright bizarre to hear this blue-nosed conservatism delivered in the amoral context of indie rock. And if Danielson can get the urban cynics to squeal along with their Pixies-threaded gospel, then God bless 'em. This could prove to be the weirdest Christian crusade yet.
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