For some, success goes down like sweet nectar, settling the anxious stomach of years of uncertainty and recharging both the malnourished body and soul. For others, however, the supposed happy times never taste as sweet. While certainly not apparent upon first listen, the life and times of Dev Hynes, former guitar twister for the short lived outfit Test Icicles, have apparently not sit so well. Sporting a rather dashing name in Lightspeed Champion, Hynes’ solo debut, Falling Off the Lavender Bridge (Domino) might play like the sonic shedding of his previous party punk ways that he so badly needed. But a closer plunge into the country kissed collection reveals a goofy getuped English kid plainly at odds with the world around him.
Recorded in Omaha Nebraska with both Mike Mogis behind the deck and members of the Saddle Creek crew (Tilly and the Wall, The Good Life, etc) pitching in within the reels, Falling Off the Lavender Bridge, not surprisingly, shoots straight for Middle America throughout. Tag vocal contributions from fellow songwriter Emmy the Great and Lightspeed sounds something akin to Chris Carabara in a cowboy hat…a comparison that should set those longing for Dashboard’s glory days into motion. But where Hynes’ and Mogis capture sunny sounding dispositions with the help of peddle steel, mandolin, harmonica, and strings, lyrics reveal an artist less at ease than the music suggests. Singing, “Hate to think what would happen if I started to drink like you/Maybe I will loosen up/Pour me another gin/guzzle down, my neck will burn as we kiss and I’m sick in your mouth” on “Galaxy of the Lost”, Hynes doesn’t shy away from sounding slightly both high and mighty and accusatory within the same verse. “Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk” sounds sweet enough, but Hynes clearly gets caught up in feeling out of touch with his mates’ current culture. And then there is “Tell Me What It’s Worth” and “Devil Tricks For a Bitch”. Both employ plenty of memorable hooks, but listeners will probably also notice Hynes’ disenchanted need to defend his race.
In the end, Falling Off the Lavender Bridge falls victim to a strange quandary. Hynes sure can pen a mighty sunny piece of pop music. But perhaps he’s a bit too much of a sour puss to do the compositions their full justice. Does the album suffer because of it? Probably not. But part of me is curious what this obvious talent is capable of once his head and heart are in the right place. – David Pitz