Detroit - Deniz Tek (Citadel/Career)
Neil told us that rust never sleeps. On his fourth solo band studio album, Deniz Tek acknowledges as much, examining the oxidation that’s all around him in clinical detail. Relationships and places go under the microscope and are dissected - like a scalpel through a heart - with keen precision.
Although Tek’s not one to allow corrosion set in. "Detroit" was a long time in gestation - not as long as the heavily layered “Equinox” but earthier than “Take It To The Vertical”. It’s also less in-the-face than “Outside” and not as experimental as “Le Bonne Route”. Dark is an over-used descriptor in rock and roll pigeonholing but in this instance, it fits.
So the first thing to note is: Don’t expect the expected. In fact the opening swell of “Pinebox” is what Birdman-attuned Tek fans might least anticipate: it’s a reflection on the fate of onetime hometown Detroit dominated by Hammond B3 organ. The guitar takes a back seat. Tek traditionalists might be more comfortable with "Twilight Of The Modern Age" where familiar six-string lines parry and thrust with fiery harmonica. Don’t expect “New Race”. The teen anthems are missing in action.
Intensity is present on “Detroit” but it’s a slow burn. The characteristic licks are there, but for the most part Tek sits in a foxhole and takes his moment to land a shot instead of jumping out of the trenches and launching a full-on assault. There's a depth to the songs and they don’t seek to overpower through sheer raw power. Tek plays all the guitars, handles all the vocals. It’s a record by a student of the Richards-Taylor school of rhythm and lead, as well as broader applications of the art of twin guitar weaving. While I’d still like to hear him butt headstocks with a foil like Masuak who’d push him to the brink with the devil taking the hindmost, there’s still much to appreciate here.
You don’t need the lyric sheet to know "Ghost Town” looks at the decay of a place (the Motor City) where tanks on the street once trumped patrol cars, but whose urban by-ways are now often bereft of life. Names of other centres of American urban decay are thrown out along the way but they can’t hold a candle to The Big D. It’s a song of steely resolve and defiance that probably also reflects personal ups and downs:
We come from a ghost town
We're alrewady dead
Nothing can kills us
“Growing Dim” might seem to be about a physical place where shadows are lengthening, but Tek quickly makes it clear that it’s “the light inside of me” that’s fading. His lyric “I’m all used up” is telling. “Can Of Soup” could be just as allegorical. Coming home to a cold trailer home in a mid-western winter is rooted in fact for a guy whose idea of down-time sometimes sounds like reading patient records between emergency ward shifts.
In case you’re worried, closing song, the Stoogey “I’m All Right”, lifts the optimism stakes with blues harp and fiery guitaqr, but you might find “Detroit” a bleak ride for a much of the going. That’s called evocative and you’re going to have to deal with it.
“Let Him Pay For That” is a spiky blues that sees off a past relationship with a turn of phrase that would do the Stones circa “Stupid Girl” proud. On the other hand, apart from its Tek-tonic lyrical references to various natural elements, “Perfect World” is a rollicking rock ride that could be straight out of The Who’s playbook, with commanding fills and explosive build setting it off.
The band’s excellent and is drawn from Australian and the US. There’s Montana based Bob Brown (from “Take It To The Vetical” days) who shares bass with artisan Andy Newman, while former Brother Wayne sideman (and genuine Spinal Tap rocker) Ric Parnell tends to the kit with warm feels. A lot of thought obviously went into the production – on “Fate Not Amenable To Change” the flinty dryness (and Tek's tone) recalls James Williamson’s sound on "Kill City" – with ex-Birdman sound guy Andy “Mort” Bradley playing a leading role. There’s even a mono version of the album on Career for the vinyl-heads.