The Upshot: A classic combination of percolating pop, sturdy Americana and bittersweet narratives, all sung with a knowing vocal that betrays a slightly sardonic edge.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Like far too many of his deserving peers, Chicago singer/songwriter Larry O. Dean has yet to accumulate the accolades he so decidedly deserves. Despite 30 years of making smart, incisive, incredibly catching and compelling music, it still resides below the radar, a fate that’s far from equitable considering his ample skills. Indeed, Dean’s no slacker. He’s released a steady stream of superb solo albums as well as outings with various bands that bear his creative imprint. Malcontent, Post Office, The Injured Parties and The Me Decade chief among them. That’s in addition to his talents as a writer and poet. Ever-prodigious, he released a remarkable multi-disc archival set late last year entitled The Zenith Beast Archives: 1986-1993 which featured digital remasters of his first four solo albums, two unreleased solo albums, two instrumental collections, rarities, and ephemera, along with a live album, early studio and home recordings by his earlier band, The Fussbudgets. The music culled from the vaults belonging to his label, Zenith Beast, had never been widely circulated, but given Dean’s remarkable productivity over the years, the compilation — overwhelming though it may be in terms of sheer scope and volume — is well worth the acquisition. Details can be found on his website, www.larryodean.com.
Never one to sit still for too long, Dean now has a new album to tout, one by name of Good Grief. Like his earlier efforts, its songs take hold on first listen, a classic combination of percolating pop, sturdy Americana and bittersweet narratives, all sung with a knowing vocal that betrays a slightly sardonic edge. From the ominous album opener “Didn’t See It Coming” to the razor sharp refrains of “Botox Party” and the searing delivery of “Sniper” and the harrowing “Ohio Executes Schiziohrenic,” Dean conveys an effortless yet expressive delivery that ought to make Good Grief a go-to album for anyone with a hankering for truly intelligent song craft. (There’s also a terrific and thoroughly reworked version of Translator’s power pop classic “Everywhere That I’m Not.”) Here’s an artist capable of rocking with a vengeance while also slowing the pace for the sake of thoughtful contemplation. In short, it’s everything one would want in a contemporary effort, and for that reason, it’s well worth the acquisition.
That said, it’s unlikely you’ll want to stop here. Any of Dean’s earlier albums provide the same degree of gratification. Good grief, what are you waiting for?
DOWNLOAD: “Botox Party,” “Sniper,” “Everywhere That I’m Not”