‘Screamer’ is the new album from Dan Baird & Homemade Sin (DB&HMS), and follows on from last year’s exceptional ‘Rollercoaster’ album. After a bout of ill health, Baird may have been excused if he had of released an album that was a little below par. Yet the reverse has occurred. ‘Screamer’ reeks of re-invigoration, with Baird returning to the top of his game with an almost flawless rock record. When I say almost flawless, to my ears 11 out of the 12 tunes are catchy, melodic and memorable. That’s a hit-rate even Mike Trout couldn’t match, highlighting a high quality consistency in the song writing department that few other artists can equal – affording ‘Screamer’ the honour of album of the year.
If Baird had any doubts about his ability to return to the game after being struck down by CLL (an aggressive form of leukaemia) in 2017, musically, it doesn’t show. Lyrically and thematically however, it does. When I interviewed Baird last year for the Australian Rock Show, (listen to that interview here), mortality and human frailties were subjects discussed. Having an enforced break from the constant touring to focus on fighting (and thankfully beating) leukaemia, resulted in Baird having considerable time to reflect. Thematically, the songs on ‘Screamer’ illustrate a man who is all too aware of the fragility of life, looking back on chapters already written – and an appreciation of all the good things in life – including relationships, friends, family and rock ‘n’ roll. Subjects we can all relate to.
The opener ‘Bust Your Heart’ surges out of the gate in a big way, a melodic tune draped in Fogertyisms and highlighted by a distinctively tasteful Warner Hodges solo. Can’t hold on, won’t let go. On last year’s ‘Rollercoaster’ and ‘SoLow’ albums, Baird opened up his memory bank and penned about his formative years and his youth growing up in Georgia. That precedent continues on ‘Screamer’ with Baird reminiscing about romance “Adilyda” and “Up In Your Kitchen”, and first love “You’re Goin’ Down”. With its catchy riff and prominent bass backbeat “What Can I Say To Help” is another high point that commands your attention, while the perpetual runka runka appeal is present on ‘You Broke It’, another riff heavy tune oozing pop sensibilities that should justly have ‘em up out of their seats and dancing. Why ain’t I hearing this on the radio ?
I also really dig ’Something Like Love’, which sees Warner Hodges on lead vocals on an out and out rocker with contagious chorus. How can you not turn this sucker up and singalong? Bring it on home DB. Indeed. By the way, if you haven’t already picked up Warner Hodges recent album ‘Right Back Where I Started’, then you definitely need to. As I wrote when I reviewed that album, “If you want to hip a musically unsophisticated younger person to what real rock n roll is – or you are an older rock fan that needs a rock n roll rejuvenation – give ‘em the gift of Warner E. Hodges rock n roll”.
Sheesh, it’s hard to pinpoint ‘Screamer’s best cut when the album as a whole is so darn good. ‘Charmed Life’ comes close though. “Some call me lucky, right place and time, Angel on my shoulder, all the stars align. Look at me living the charmed life.” Super catchy tune and big singalong chorus. The same applies to ‘Good Problem To Have’ – anthemic, sing along, heavy duty blooze.
If I’m pressed, the album’s plum for mine is ‘Something Better’. Clocking in at 6 minutes – ‘Something Better’ is epic, of ‘Crooked Smile’ proportions. A monster tune that sways and grooves, ebbs and flows, embellished by an emotive Hodges solo that is truly colossal and dripping with feel. Expansively stunning – the lyrics creating a visual in the mind of the listener. Worn out song and memories. Not yet folks. What a tune. What an album. Songs like this are what separates DB&HMS from the rest of the field.
‘Screamer’ is the 7th and latest in a long line of consistently strong, high quality DB&HMS albums that have gotten progressively better over the last decade, commencing with 2008’s self tilted, ‘Dan Baird and Homemade Sin’ album. By saying that, I’m certainly not dismissing Baird’s solo material up until 2008, including the excellent Yayhoos records. What I am saying is that since the addition of Warner Hodges at that point (and in recent years the collaboration with Joe Blanton in particular), the addition of this musical muscle has lifted the band to new heights previously not attained – particularly in the song writing stakes. Circus Life, Get Loud, SoLow, Rollercoaster and now Screamer. Each stands on its own merits, but as a collective, that’s a pretty bloody decent set of albums in the last decade.
‘Screamer’ by Dan Baird & Homemade Sin is the 2018 album of the year. 10 out of 10. ‘Screamer’ is out now and released on JCPL Music.