As Daughn Gibson, Josh Martin has drawn comparisons to Stephin Merritt, Bill Callahan, Arthur Russell, Scott Walker, Lee Hazlewood [...][...][...]. He is at once all of these and none of these, and while he brings the old country up to date via Apple (see “Tiffany Lou,” which cites television’s Cops and, musically, resembles cLOUDDEAD’s “Pop Song” quite strongly), what separates him from the aforementioned list is a baritone teetering on cartoonish, a voice he toys with now and then, as with “The Day You Were Born,” which, embarrassingly, sounds like nothing more than a didgeridoo over falling rain.
It seems unlikely that he’d fall into friendship with and get signed by childhood friend Matt Korvette, of Pennsylvania sludge band Pissed Jeans (and label White Denim), at least until finding that Martin once drummed for stoner rock band Pearls and Brass, a group somewhat well-aligned with Pissed Jeans. As Daughn Gibson he has been taken for a musical mastermind, and though certain points of All Hell would appear to place him as a musician who sees the fun in sound for sound’s sake, it is only upon watching him perform that he in fact appears completely humorless; he is not so much the brilliant innovator as he is the man who discovered his capabilities somewhat late in his career and now, quite intentionally, seeks to be perceived as the dry genius.
The title track on the record is, in spite of all said, a highlight, and finds Martin snarling his way through somewhat macho lyricism layered over a musical noir—were he to stay on this route, he might find himself a junior Mike Patton, capable of toying with sound for sound’s sake and crooning in a way that is unthinkably male, but perhaps more genuinely him. As he stands, however, Martin sounds an ambiguous parody, best embodied by a line in Breakfast at Tiffany’s: “Is [s]he or isn’t [s]he?” [White Denim/Sub Pop]
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