Dusted Reviews

Great Lake Swimmers - Great Lake Swimmers

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Great Lake Swimmers

Album: Great Lake Swimmers

Label: Weewerk

Review date: May. 4, 2004

Melodrama is a dangerous realm when it comes to music. Top 40 chart hits and second hand CD bins are rife with examples of bad acting. Once someone expresses personal material in an intense way, it can easily become a recipe for kitsch. But some vocalists know how to turn kitsch or even over-emotional material into something profound and moving. Cat Power comes to mind, in particular The Covers Record, where even trite pop songs succumb to the magic of her voice. Perhaps Tony Dekker of the Great Lakes Swimmers would be too glib a comparison to make to Ms. Marshall, but the former, like the latter, does have the ability to express lyrics in a seemingly heartfelt manner. Victor Szabo’s production (the studio was an abandoned grain silo) is heavy with ghostly reverb, which heightens the dramatic effect.

On their own, Dekker’s lyrics read like cringe-inducing melodrama. For example, on “Moving, Shaking,” Dekker utilizes the somber imagery of cracks in the walls, men crawling over broken tiles, and the experience of various shades of emotional angst. “Faithful Night Listening” tops it – a narration from an alleyway serenading stray cats, dumpsters, broken-down cars and the night sky. The song refers to Dekker’s compulsion for song, which is so strong that when absent an audience, an alleyway will do. Sounds a bit self-pitying, doesn’t it?

Great Lakes Swimmers’ upbeat material – like “I will never see the sun” and “Three Days at Sea (Three Years Lost)” – feature some scuffed storylines. The former is not so much an homage to the Toronto subway system as to the shabby misfits who inhabit its downtown core. “Three Days…” is an allegorical tale of being lost at sea, surviving tribulation to return haggard and run down. As the tempo hastens, Dekker’s lyrics remain bleak; a strong rhythm section helps keep these tunes from drowning in their own despair.

Like much melodrama, however, there is a happy ending. Tony Dekker’s voice – complete with wistful sighs – makes it easy to buy this sincerity. On “This is not like home,” the simple, almost trite, narrative of working in the countryside is transformed into a heartfelt eulogy. When Dekker switches from subtle mourning to demonstrative lament, the effect is both jarring and powerful.

Some might dismiss Great Lakes Swimmers as overly emotional. Others may find themselves simply overwhelmed. Regardless, Tony Dekker has developed a distinct persona and is unafraid to test the limits of the human heartstring, even if he snaps a few in the process.

By I Khider

Other Reviews of Great Lake Swimmers


Read More

View all articles by I Khider

Find out more about Weewerk

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.