(This is week 41 of my 52 Austin CD Reviews in 52 Weeks Project)
“God made the world and saw that it was good. Not fair, not happy, not perfect, but good. And little understood, like rain.” - Rain
Open Eyed / Broken Wide
When many bands are quickly releasing EPs and getting their mp3s on iTunes in order to get ahead of the music curve and to satisfy the need-it-now demands of fans, Dave Madden has done something both amazing and amazingly impressive. He’s assembled a cast of phenomenal Austin musicians (Will Taylor and Strings Attached, Suzanna Choffel, Wendy Colonna, and John Pointer to name a few) and released a double album – 24 individual tracks (18 songs with 6 alternate-version tracks).
That alone is pretty impressive. As they say… “wait.. there’s more.” He’s abandoned the physical compact disc and instead released a beautiful lyric book with an access code to get to the albums in digital format, giving you access to a higher quality than has been offered in the past, the 96k audio (Madden explains it’s better than 2x CD quality and 35x mp3 quality).
It’s a statement, for sure. And a bold one. But, all is for naught if the music suffers or is not fully realized. Well, it took me about 3 weeks of listening to Open Eyed / Broken Wide to feel like I could write about it. Not for any other reason than, it’s packed full of really, really good music and some of the most heartfelt and genius lyrics I’ve heard in a long time.
This collection gave me the same feeling I got the first time I listened to Guy Forsyth’s Love Songs: For and Against, Ruthie Foster’s Runaway Soul, or Edwin McCain’s Honor Among Thieves. That is to say… it’s really good.
The album is a journey. It’s about life, it’s about love, about finding your way in this world’s sea of confusion. Madden marries his music and words with other things that have inspired him. He uses an Ariele Danea triptych poem across three songs. He quotes the likes of T.S. Eliot and Allen Ginsberg and draws inspiration from diverse folks like Leonard Cohen and a WWII retailing analyst by the name of Victor LeBow.
The music on Open Eyed / Broken Wide is really not genre specific enough for me to label it. It’s piano ballads (“A Beautiful Night,” “Someday,” “This is Love”), alternative rock (“Dirty Feet” [on Open Eyed], “Music is a Whore”), acoustic guitar (“Dirty Feet” [on Broken Wide], “Broken Wide”), adult contemporary (“Aware,” “Probably Why”), and gospel (“Believe,” “The New New Testament”).
Several of the songs on Open Eyed have alternate versions on Broken Wide (which was recorded live in Austin at the KUT 90.5 Studio). It’s a really interesting thing to get the same song in two musical versions. “When You Say No” is a stunning full production on Open Eyed and a beautiful stripped down guitar ballad on Broken Wide. Similarly the epic “This Is Love” from Open Eyed becomes a single instrument (piano) ballad on Broken Wide. I’d venture to say the songs on Broken Wide are more in tune to the creation process when writing and the Open Eyed versions are what can be done when adding amazing instrumentation.
The common denominator to these songs is the lyrics. Madden knows how to string words together to make a compelling and meaningful song no matter the musical genre.
“Tomorrow Today” is probably my favorite track on the album. It is most outright rock-anthem as well… complete with an AC/DC “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” type break down. “It’s the next big thing didn’t you hear? It’s not new unless it comes from next year.”
Open Eyes / Broken Wide is full of great lyrics. I feel the review wouldn’t be complete without listing a few.
- She laughs / The fun is never over / and never fully sober / and everything’s a blur. – “Open Eyed / Broken Wide”
- I feed on the fire my feet on the wire / Try as you might to follow the light / you can’t get it right. Believe. - “Believe”
- I could freak out and lose my cool / and put you next to 9/11 and heaven on a pedestal / freak out and make it into a fight / and send you sneaky ninja messages into the night. – “Probably Why”
- Yeah… well no one’s perfect… but imperfection has never looked so good. – “A Beautiful Night”
- And everybody’s water is a different shade of blue / and we all take pride in some kind of food / and everyone’s a Me, but mostly / everyone’s a You. – “Drive Across America”
I’m not sure if this should be billed as a double album, two single albums, or a studio album with a live record. For $20 you get 24 really good songs. If you strip away all of the interesting side stories and format issues and just concentrate on the music itself... it’s still one of the most impressive albums I’ve heard in the last few years.
For more information about Dave Madden or to buy Open Eyed / Broken Wide, visit his homepage at http://www.davemaddenmusic.com. He plays next at Flipnotics (1601 Barton Springs Road) on 6/24, then Grace Covenant Church on 6/27, and The Ghost Room on 7/3. Can’t make those? Click the “Shows” link on his site.