The Red Alert
The Red Alert

Danny Cohen

Knitting Factory - June 8, 2005

Live Review by Adam McKibbin


An early show is a tough way to unveil an album, but Danny Cohen gamely stepped up to the plate for his 8 p.m. slot on the day after his reliably eclectic new album, We’re All Gunna Die, hit the shelves. An iconoclast whose gruff folksiness occupies a similar terrain as labelmate Tom Waits, Cohen has a worldview that tilts inexorably toward the acidic, perhaps a long-standing reaction against the flower-power movement that enjoyed its heyday during Cohen’s formative days as a troubadour.


Cohen seemed somewhat embittered about the awkwardly-sized audience and their mild reactions to his between-song anecdotes, and by the end of the set it seemed that Cohen was watching the clock and wishing he was elsewhere (indeed, he would finally end his set abruptly and, presumably, prematurely). [Editor's Note: As it turns out, the somewhat unsatisfying conclusion was the result of a disagreement between Cohen and the venue's sound assistant, who insisted that he close the set 15 minutes earlier than previously agreed upon.]


When settled into a comfort zone, though, there was some provocative new material to explore, aided by some unique instrumentation courtesy of his band’s saw and lap steel players. His narratives are sometimes very specific (“Cousin Guy”), and sometimes more indecipherable, with phrases strung together like Burroughs. His cantankerous side is best showcased in convention-baiting, discordant moments like the chorus of "Among The Cows." For all the inherent cynicism, the songs also revealed some stubborn optimism, even though this is more apparent on the actual album (this “earnest dreamer” side of Cohen’s personality is best embodied on the pastoral “Magritte”). The coexistence of these different temperaments help keep We're All Gunna Die an unpredictable and engaging listen.


More by this writer:

John Doe - Interview

Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies

Vetiver - To Find Me Gone

Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche