Dan Lyons’ ‘SubSuburbia’ acts as a looking glass into modern Britain. Its resemblances are pretty uncanny, a clever collection of stories, social commentary and sound.
The album begins with surprising ferocity. ‘Mr Meaner’ suits the back rooms and small venues Lyons is accustomed to. ’Thin Black Duke’ has all the lyrical pragmatism of a Donovan song, both witty and well-formed. It is a fusion of inspirations, from George Harrison’s 1960s to Britpop, and the musical diversity is runs throughout the project.
Lyons evades conventionality. From being one of the many past members of Fat White Family to touring with Pete Doherty and The Libertines, there is something unique about the singer. ‘SubSuburbia’ epitomises this unconventionality. And it comes at a fruitful time for the artist, who finds himself on the precipice of a much anticipated UK tour. From London to Manchester, Nottingham to Margate, the album acts as the perfect soundtrack to a decade beginning with such decadence.
If music was scholarly then Dan Lyons would hail from that of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed. His lyrics are commanding, both piquant and hard-hitting. Take ‘Biarritz’ for example, with its imagery of Southern France in the 1960s evoked through a bouncy drum-beat and catchy riff. Its clever narrative brings immersion, as Dan recalls memories of a short-lived, lop-sided romance and spins characters and settings into life. Through vivid imagery rarely seen in song, he can tell stories in earnest.
Constant flirtation with spoken word makes ‘SubSuburbia’ all the more unique, and throws an intense magnifying glass upon post-Brexit, pre-dystopian Britain. Elements of these pieces are recognisable and semi-fictitious: the monotony of small towns, drunken evenings and abusive love affairs, all relayed as pictures.
Most good music is a product of its geographical inspirations, and ‘SubSuburbia’ is the embodiment of such a statement. ‘Frank’, for example, rings true of late summer evenings upon a Kentish beach, with a tinge of shoegaze for good measure. ‘Big Moon’ is its divergent, its franticness emphasising the claustrophobic heartache in which the move to a big city brings. Similarly is ‘Sub Suburbia (Pt.3)’ – another spoken word outing whose riff mocks the monotony of mundane city life.
Dan Lyons is a storyteller. In another life, he’d find himself living amongst the Beats of New York’s Greenwich Village or living rent-free as a poet in Paris’ Shakespeare & Co. ‘SubSuburbia’ is a treasure trove of clever lyrics and immersive imagery, a pleasurable listening experience.
Words: Charlie Barnes
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