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Dan Melchior und Das Menace - Catbirds & Cardinals

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Artist: Dan Melchior und Das Menace

Album: Catbirds & Cardinals

Label: Northern Spy

Review date: Aug. 31, 2011

Observations about his rate of output are well-worn territory, but still: This is the second Dan Melchior LP in six months. While the noisy, deconstructed Assemblage Blues was a deviation from Melchior’s typically more song-oriented body of work, the fact remains that keeping up with the man’s releases can start to feel like a part-time job. None of Melchior’s albums are bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to deny the possibility that we’ve reached Peak Melchior.

Which isn’t to say that his albums run together: When compared to Melchior’s widely-distributed releases from the past couple of years, Catbirds & Cardinals is less byzantine and jammy than Thankyou Very Much, less obscured by fuzz than Obscured By Fuzz, less abrasive than Assemblage Blues, and its pop sensibility is finer tuned than Visionary Pangs. If that seems confusing, or if you stopped reading halfway through the previous sentence, then you’ll understand why it’s hard to recommend Catbirds & Cardinals on its own terms. Sure, this is a fine piece of pop songcraft with influences from the Barrett-Richman-Knox continuum, but Melchior’s catalog has reached a size where it’s impossible to tell which albums to recommend over any other.

It’s not even a Robert Pollard scenario, where one can check in to see whether or not the latest release is "worth it." Melchior’s recordings never dip below a certain level of quality, and it’s through this consistency that a pretty good record like Catbirds & Cardinals (or any of his second-tier releases, really) can easily get lost in the shuffle. The obvious complaint to make here would be one about Melchior exercising some quality control — but who’s to say he’s not?

It’s not as if Melchior is shoveling out the same album over and over, or wasting our time with material that never should have seen the light of day. (Two accusations, it must be said, that have been made more legitimately against onetime Melchior associate Billy Childish.) Catbirds & Cardinals is better than the vast majority of current albums in its genre. Most of Melchior’s albums are. Whenever anyone’s looking for understated power pop without psychedelic pretensions or leather-jacketed buffoonery, he’ll always be waiting with between 50 or 60 new songs. What it boils down to, though, is how many straightforward-ish pop statements a listener can love from the same artist.

By Joe Bernardi

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