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the hex the ghears
Artist: Dan Donovan
Label: Madan Records
Length: 12 tracks/51:22
"Sassy Punk" opens Dan Donovan's fourth solo album unexpectedly, not in the stripped back folk strangeness of the past, but more in the vein of his Tribe of Dan incarnation--a sprawling, jammy Brit rock/pop tune all about the bluesy riff married to drum loops and organ, with Dan's attitude-drenched vocal loving the microphone.  The madman has a few new musician friends, most notably Dan Doughty on keyboards and loops, and the hex the ghears spans the range of Dan's musical palette in his enthusiasm to experiment with the newfound toys.  The only constant is Donovan's alternating deep/raspy voice--still a cross between Mike Knott's sarcasm, Mike Roe's phrasing, and Tom Waits' smoked-out tone.  

"Froot to Boot" is an acoustic thrasher reminiscent of early Hawkwind psych-prog meeting Velvet Underground cool.  "In Your Arms" is a rhythmic spoken word piece that ends in a funky, Southeast-Asian groove.  "Kiss the Star" swaggers like the Stones, but with a cloak of electronic swirls and beeps.  "Little Red Jag" gets the head bobbing with some minimalist techno funk while Donovan takes his kooky rhymes to a nonsensical extreme--"little red jag/little jag/fat jag/red jag little fat jag."  The messy garage rocker "Shiny King" features lyrics about as clear as the subjective Donovan gets:

Drink a little punk juice
Frame a piece of rock moose
Shining on the inside
Holy shakin so loose

Revert a tiny mind
Stoking up the blind
Who's fingers in the fire
Who's spitting out the rind

Uh, yeah.  Though his lyrics might be pure metaphor madness, at least they sound cool. 

Some listeners may find the range of music disconcerting and the arrangements too loose, but the hex the ghears should please fans as Dan's most original and interesting effort yet.  It's an odd, bionic spin on his extremes of boot-stomping rock and quietly scruffy folk.  It might not be the best introduction for the unfamiliar, though. Instead, try Tribe of Dan's The Bootus Red for rock or Dan Donovan's Dust Shaker for your folk fix. 

To order, go to:

Josh Spencer       12/20/2000


Josh Spencer, contributing senior associate editor forr The Phantom Tollbooth for over two years, is also publisher and editor-in-chief of spiritual pop culture webzine Stranger Things.  Reviews and articles by him are usually simultaneously published in some form at



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