The Upshot: Followup to the erstwhile Green On Red frontman’ s similarly-titled 2013 album finds him working with Mexican rockers Twin Tones and masterfully picking up where he left off with GOR.
BY FRED MILLS
Though he was seemingly everywhere from the mid ‘80s to the early ‘90s as the charismatic, raucous, notoriously hard-drinking frontman for proto-Americana wranglers Green On Red, songwriter/vocalist Dan Stuart subsequently dropped off the radar for a protracted period of time. You can attribute that to drugs, music industry vicissitudes, and an eventual self-imposed exile to Mexico. He gradually resurfaced in fits and starts—yours truly worked with him at one point in the 2000s on a couple of Green On Red archival releases (read an adapted version of my liner notes here as part of BLURT’s ongoing “The College Rock Chronicles” series)—and, in 2013, released a critically acclaimed solo album, The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings, which suggested that whatever the demons he’d battled, they hadn’t robbed him of his ability to turn a phrase or craft a memorable rock ‘n’ roll song.
Not long after, he published his memoir bearing the same title—he called it a “false memoir” but, despite plenty of names-changed-to-protect-the-guilty going on in the book, it was a pretty accurate chronicle of his youth and days with Green On Red. As Stuart himself admitted to me in an interview,” I wasn’t writing history, or an autobiography… more a roman á clef. The book is just a little French dagger, that’s all it is. I tried to write it like a good punk song, linear yet sometimes obtuse. I wasn’t trying to be cute, I name some people and others I don’t.”
Which brings us to Marlowe’s Revenge, which isn’t so much a sequel as it is the next logical move by a songwriter who, having gotten his mojo back, isn’t ready to retreat back into the hills just yet. Enlisting the talents of Mexico City-based “spaghetti western rock” outfit Twin Tones, Stuart cut a slew of tracks at their studio, handed the results to J.D. Foster for mixing duties, and wound up with one helluva platter that’s even better than The Deliverance of… and, as fans will realize upon the first spin, slots perfectly into his Green On Red oeuvre.
For example, tracks like heavy garage rocker “Hola Guapa,” with its surging organ and meaty surf guitars, and druggy psychedelic drone epic “The Whores Above,” all fuzzed-out riffs and ominous ambiance, could’ve easily been resurrected from sessions for Green On Red classic Gas Food Lodging. And a number of softer, folkier numbers, such as the strummy, melodic “Last Blue Day” and the Latin-flavored, acoustic-powered “Name Hog,” provide the perfect textural and dynamic counterpoint to the upbeat numbers, which again was a hallmark of GOR back in the day.
One tune in particular reminds what a master of storytelling detail and tuneful detail Stuart has always been. “Zipolite” has an almost Cormac McCarthy noir quality to it thanks to its drugs-and-implied-violence undercurrent and part-spoken/part-sung narrative; true to Twin Tones’ “spaghetti western rock” badge, the sonic motifs of windswept twang, stately piano and mournful trumpet serve to bring the tale alive with cinematic panache.
Stuart is reportedly completing a second book, one which may or may not pick up where The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings left off. Suffice to say that whether putting lyrics or story to paper, he’s still got plenty to say. To that I’d also note that in Twin Tones he’s also found some remarkably talented stage foils that both honor Stuart’s roots and suggest a fruitful path forward.
DOWNLOAD: “Zipolite,” “Elena,” “The Whores Above”