I can’t sit down and relay to anyone the hours I’ve spent torturing myself as a songwriter struggling to deliver what so many colleagues and contemporaries of mine seem to deliver naturally. Through some of the years of my life, I soft-shoed and smiled my way through coffee shops, bars, street corners and any other place I could, lacking any real self-awareness other than what it was like to have a good time. I’m not saying I wasn’t (or am not) a good songwriter or even singer; it took me a lifetime to get out of the wilderness. I don’t know at what point I began to realize that I didn’t have that singular wave in the songs I was writing at the time; back then, I began to think I was outclassed and outranked despite all my best intentions. One thing’s certain: I have always managed to bump into, in the course of this lifelong process of discovery, a handful of songwriters who take their chopped-and-screwed lives, their face-down-in-a-pile-of-vomit-and-drugs existences and turn them into something that people should hear and talk about.
Is it a folk tradition, a pop tradition, something else? Austin-based songwriter Danny Malone appears to have discovered this secret — if that’s actually what it turns out to be (and might in the final analysis) — mining as deeply within one’s own self for a lightswitch that can be flipped on to emit something from life’s bitter wreckages and rummage sales that is too precious and beautiful not to sing along with. Danny, in his own words, “resides on a planet of his own making. A world of pure energy. Where chaos is king, and sadness is queen, and the prince is made mostly of violence and pain.” On the forthcoming album Balloons, Danny attempts to vaguely capture his survival mechanisms and explore the characters in his often self-inflicted kangaroo court, getting himself (and maybe someone else who needs it) free by sending them out into the world for us to hear.
The ten songs here, whether by fashion or by design, mount levels of honest, unfettered self-opinion and discovery that are granted to so few songwriters, even prejudiced as they might seem by the author’s own escapades and disconnects. The songs, produced by Matt Smith at the 16th Century-built Engelsholm Castle in Denmark and funded purely through a Kickstarter campaign for release, are individually and collectively fueled by a loss of self-control that sounds as if it may have led to an awakening. If you’ve ever temporarily lost the steering of a car then suddenly regained the wheel, you may well understand what Danny Malone’s songwriting oeuvre is.
The song I share with you here, “Spiderlegs”, shares a commonality with the other songs on Balloons in it’s ability to convey an exorcism, so far above hyperbole that it begs listeners like me to allow their self-doubt and questions to be set free, exchanged for something that will save us from ourselves. Many a songwriter has tried and failed to come back from the precipice of self-doubt and destruction carrying something that resembles a life raft, a gift they want to throw back to the rest of us so we won’t end up floating aimlessly in a living Viking funeral. Danny Malone’s success or failure within these songs doesn’t even depend on whether the rest of us want to jump on; we’re just lucky he got back in time to give us all a chance to think about where that place is & whether or not it’s worth all the fucking pain we’d have to go through to look for a version of Danny that has already made it back.
Balloons is an album that reveals the joy we all want to find at the end of some discomfort. It wipes away tears and puts something soothing and healing in open wounds & wants you — yes, you — to stop fucking around already with the things that didn’t work and say goodbye to them, remembering them only long enough to sing them off to someone else who, like you, is out looking for the way out.
Danny Malone has a pre-release show for Balloons tonight (3 November 2012) at Stubb’s in Austin, TX. We hear there’s going to be an orchestra & wish we could attend (send us pictures!!)