When I review a Drew Danburry album, I think I spend more time trying to decode the references in the song titles than actually writing the review. Such was the case with his upcoming album, Becoming Bastian Salazar. The super-sized titles on Danburry’s latest record name a Japanese actor, an Australian director, a horse trainer, the man who composed The Simpsons’ theme song, Bob Dylan’s ex-girlfriend, a violence interrupter from Chicago, a BYU film professor, a religious leader, an author, a fictional character, the lead singer of Minor Threat, and more. I got thrown for a loop on “Blake Henderson TaughtMe That Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork.” That’s not a typo and he’s not the guy from Workaholics; Blake Henderson is the musician behind TaughtMe. I still haven’t quite figured out how they all fit together or how they fit the songs. It doesn’t really matter, though, because the songs stand well on their own, even without the titles giving an any extra insight.
Coming off of my last review, which happened to be from Danburry’s alter ego Damien Fairchild of For All the Girls, I had the sugary sweet love songs still in my head. The songs from Becoming Bastian Salazar have darker themes; they definitely did not come from Damien, the lovestruck teenager. Much like Danburry created Damien in order to write sweet love songs, I assume that he is “becoming Bastian Salazar” to write these darker, sadder lyrics. The last song on the album, a beautiful song with an acoustic guitar, harmonica, and strong backing vocals, supports this as it is called “Author’s Note: Bastian Salazar.” Lyrics about being in a bad relationship out of loneliness pop up on the album. Even “Victoria, For All the Girls, or Jef Logsdon (feat. Damien Fairchild)” may sound like the upbeat, oldie love song that belongs on one of Damien’s albums, but the lyrics aren’t as sweet. Victoria is cold and may have no soul; Damien/Bastian “never felt worse than tonight / my ideals are begging to die / so when I drown in my blood don’t bother to ask reasons.” Either Damien is reaching his ultra-dramatic teenage years or this is Bastian’s darker, sadder influence. It seems that poor Bastian loses his soul a lot. He sells it in “Author’s Note” and it gets stolen by a sexy lady in “Palace of Sin.” “Eliot Rosewater” is self-deprecating about his life having no purpose and that he’s got an “unbearable lack of talent tied to foolish dreams.” These definitely aren’t the sugar-sweet love songs of For All the Girls. It also can’t be about Danburry; he hasn’t got an unbearable lack of talent.
What stayed consistent was the strange-yet-pleasant mix of ‘50s and ‘60s pop sounds with modern effects added. One of the best examples of this is “Present as Lord,” where the background could be from a ‘60s pop love song, but the weird sort of popping sounds over top of it are definitely a more modern touch. The effects are sometimes used to further the message of the song: “Dean Duncan, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” is interesting in that it sounds like the background sounds are going backwards (as in being rewound,) and the lyrics talk about wanting to forget how they first met and reintroducing themselves (or rewinding their relationship and starting over). Another carryover from past albums was the sometimes harmonized, oft-shouted backing vocals. The strong backing vocals add a lot of interest to the songs.
It’s a catchy album with the same older pop sensibilities, newer effects, and thought-provoking lyrics that Danburry has shown his skill with in the past. If you like researching things, this album comes with the added bonus of having Google search-worthy titles. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to resume my own research.