The Bootus Red 
Artist: Tribe of Dan 
Label: Mister M Records    
Time: 13 tracks (11 songs)/4656 

"Swamp rock" is what frontman Dan Donovan calls his brand of  rough music, and that's what it sounds like...a group of 60's  garage rockers who've been playing out in some forsaken marsh for 30 years, occasionally making forays into the civilized world to hear and bring back new ideas from grunge, goth, alternative, and folk. Then they throw it all in the mix, tweak the distortion, and go.... 

The Bootus Red seems much rawer and less focused than Shook Up Shook Up the band's 1991 debut. The Billy Idol-with-bronchitis vocals have deepened and thickened into a palatable Tom Waits huskiness. Donovan's voice isn't as strained-whiny here as on his solo albums either, which is a good thing. The hooks are traded in for more atmospheric, moody experimentations, which begs for plenty of repeated listens to soak it all in. There are meandering scrappy guitars, spirit-world blues, big Nirvana drums, howling and whispering...just all around groovy music. Freaky poetry-rich lyrics too, although the lack of a lyric sheet makes it tough to make out Donovan's thoughts. 

Amid the rockier numbers are some mellow tunes more akin to Donovan's solo work. "No Bad Dog" is a laidback song with his smoothest singing yet, and a radio-ready chorus done just cool enough to ensure it'll never hit those airwaves it would rule were this a garage rock world. "Inside of Here" continues the relatively clear singing, with sleepy-quiet picking for the meditative lyrics to float over. Two spoken-word treats--"Boat Story" and a delayed track at the end--show off trippy, minimalist guitar effects and Dan's English accent (which will no doubt add to the appeal for American listeners). 

The diversity of the songs and the lower vocals make The Bootus Red  my favorite of Donovan's recordings so far, and  it's highly recommended for people whose musical tastes  inhabit the fringes of the civilized music world. Tribe of Dan is grunge for the goth, indie rock for the classic rocker,  alternative for the original grungers. 

 
By Josh Spencer 


 

Poised on the brink of success with their debut album Shook Up Shook  Up,  things were looking very bright for Tribe of Dan back in 1991. It  came as  something of a shock, therefore, when tribal leader, Dan Donovan,  announced  that he was breaking the band up and moving into more acoustic lands. 

In the  intervening years, Donovan has released three critically acclaimed  solo albums  of mainly acoustic material, recorded another album with like-minded songster  Mr. Bennett, and busied himself with a number of other projects like directing a video for Eden Burning and designing album sleeves for Split Level and the Electrics, among others. 

Those years bear their influence on this record. At least one of the tracks  here, "No Bad Dog," first appeared in a slightly different form on a  tape-only release called Root,  and slight tinges of self-plagiarism can be heard. The Bootus Red  has a slightly more contemporary feel to its predecessor. A lot has changed  in the  music world in the past seven years and the album reflects that without   sacrificing any of the uniqueness of Tribe of Dan or the raw quality they  bring to their recordings. They aren't afraid to be slightly unconventional with their atmospheric guitar-based rock, and there are some dark elements. Some would say mystical. There is a balanced mixture of mellow and raucous, often  within one song. 

If proof were needed of the band's Christianity, it can be found,  albeit in slightly coded form. A reference to "that house on the hill" in "In  The Blood" is a reference to a song from Eden Burnings album Brink, where it  is used as a metaphor for Christianity. There are also other lines in this  particular song about looking for hope in "the blood." As this analysis will  show, however, Donovan and his bandmates are not concerned with simple statements of faith but with self-expression through their songs. 
 
All three band members (Donovan the only returning member) share vocal duties - Donovan plays guitar and takes the lead vocals,  Matt Middleton plays drums, and Dan Harris is on the bass. All members have songwriting credits--"Boom The Boom" is a group effort, and Harris wrote  "The Staring Song" (which appears in two different versions but isn't really a  song). 

The quality of the songwriting is consistent, but different elements are occasionally built in, such as the crazy harmonica sounds on "No Bad Dog," the  odd sample, and spoken word vocals. This is a very moody album, and this and  the slightly odd vocals mean that it will not be a hit with every listener.  For those who do take to it, however, there are many gems. The moody and  turbulent sounds sometimes hide the lyrics, but it isnt just the music that  has a dark side; in "Happy Hole" Donovan sings:

while in "Inside Of Here" he asks:  This is no commercial record and its rough edges will probably highlight a divide between those who love it and those who hate it. There is much to like,  however, and a lot to explore for those who are willing. 

By James Stewart