Review: Dan Webster: The Great Storm of Now (album)
Little known except to those in the know in Yorkshire, Harrogate’s multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Dan Webster has made the art of making great music look effortless for more than 20 years.
From being a teenager in Wilma in the mid-90s, still, incidentally, the only Harrogate band ever to win the famed battle of the bands in Fibbers in York that discovered Shed Seven, through Flowered Up in the early Noughties, to Tigerbomb in the mid-Noughties and The Birdman Rallies in more recent years, line-ups, names and styles may have changed, the youthful energy of grunge-punk pop giving way to more expansive and experimental psychedelic rock before moving into elements of electronica, acoustic and indie pop music in a typically subtle way.
But one thing has remained utterly constant – Webster’s complete command of the art of melody and invention.
By any rights, at this point the man who sounds like like Damon Albarn mixed with Marc Bolan should be running a little low on both as he heads towards mid-life.
Instead his latest self-produced album, a solo effort where he performs every single instrument, is his best ever.
If anyone asks where’s the UK’s version of those much-hailed US cult geniuses such as Ty Seagall are, we’ve got one right here in humble little Harrogate.
As always the 13 tracks on The Great Storm of Now feature his trademark slightly falsetto vocals, non-stop hooks, sophisticated arrangements, instrumental creativity and intelligent lyrics.
Once upon a time all this breathless and restless storm of ideas could seem a little too whimsical and lacking depth.
Perhaps, it’s age but without losing any of what this music teacher in York by day and original musician by night does best, all this cleverness is now delivered with quiet layers of meaning and real emotion - and in a more relaxed and natural way.
His vocals are also his best ever, quietly and almost casually laden with character and emotion and meaning.
Influences of indie and psychedelia and punk and pop and funk and hip hop and electronica and pastoral acousticalia which once threatened to overwhelm his songs are now so deeply ingrained in his musical soul it’s now impossible in Dan Webster’s music to see the join or dismiss it all as clever quirkiness.
Highlights such as punchy opener Tiger Suit, slinky funk feast Friends, the touching nostalgia of Sungold Shelters and the ambitious melancholia of the title track betray a sharp-eyed view on the mess of modern world – as well as wistful musings on small town foibles, the changing of the seasons and lost golden days of girls and innocence.
It’s tempting but lazy to sum up Dan Webster and this brilliant album by referring to names such as Beck and Vampire Weekend and Metronomy and Super Furry Animals and XTC.
But, really, it’s gone beyond that.
Put simply, Dan Webster has proved himself as his own man – and just as great a musician as all of the above.
The only question is why this album isn't on a proper label such as Domino or Rough Trade where it deserves to be?