Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males: Drowning in the Fountain Of Youth

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I was introduced to the record by James O’Brien from The Boat People. We used to hang out a lot when he still lived in Brisbane and I was obsessed with the local music scene. We actually met at the Translink call centre, getting by on telling peeps how to get to and from work on pubic transport. Not a bad job actually. I was just starting to record my first solo record with Blame Ringo and knew absolutely nothing about anything, let alone the local scene. He would constantly tell me “Come and see my band!” but I couldn’t think of anything worse. Local indie-pop? Spew. Anyway, eventually I relented and it was a watershed. The Boat People were great! Local music didn’t have to suck after all! I think I was jaded by early 2000s commercial radio. Who knows. And so, fast forward a couple of years and James gives me a copy of Dan Kelly’s 'Drowning in the Fountain Of Youth'. For some reason he always knew what sort of music I’d like, and this was no exception. In fact, it’s now probably in my all time top 5. Not a bad recommendation, James!

I think what attracted me so much to this record (and the one that followed it for that matter) was the sheer care that went into the whole thing. Having spent countless hours recording pretty generic pop songs myself, I couldn’t fathom how some of the songs on this record could go from being acoustic ideas, all the way to what I was hearing. I just couldn’t (and still can’t) understand how these songs work. For me they’re like sonic art. Having a band filled with motherfuckers probably doesn’t hurt, but regardless, every single part of this record is so meticulously considered. There is literally not a note or a sound out of place across every single second of its 51 minute running time. A lot of the genius is rooted in two sources – banks of ghostly backing vox accompanied by the most eclectic variety of guitar tones that I’ve ever heard on a pop record before or since.

And that’s not even to mention the poetry of it. Production, arrangement and the playing aside, what makes this record really stand out is the story telling. Without a word of hyperbole, I was hearing new tidbits of the stories the man tells 40 listens in. Just like every sound is considered, so is every word in every line of the lyrics. The whole thing feels like a very vivid dream. One of these songs, Vice City Rolling (my favourite for a while, although the favourites are constantly changing) is all about being addicted to the video game Grand Theft Auto after breaking up with your girlfriend.

I don’t want religion, keep your faith healing.

I don’t need a guru to teach me good feeling.

I just need an overdose of speeding and stealing.

Then I head back home, disconnect the phone.

What a brilliantly bizarre concept for a song. Then there is what I can only describe as being pure poetry in Mail Order Bridge; a piece of introspective analysis re: the life of a struggling muso that feels so personal and tragic with the perfect arrangement that surrounds it.

But life’s just a magic trick and I can’t ever get the hang of it.

Shaking on the beggars tin, until you wind up in the bargain bin,

Stuck between the Thompson Twins again.

Ahh, shit I wish I could write a song like this. While the stories are from left and right field, the themes are much like the follow up record, 'Dan Kelly's Dream'. The man’s mind exists on the fringes of what is commonplace in society. Topics go back and forth from self-analysis to the verbalising of daydreams, and all the while the bloke seems like he wants to pack his bags and get away from the world's madness – whatever that means from tune to tune. Dan Kelly is a very strange fellow who makes very strange music, and that’s great. Much better than the alternative. 

Ok, I’m jack of writing now. This is less of a review and more of a friendly recommendation – just like the one James gave me all those years ago. If you want some anti-pop that is as good as anything anybody in the indie world has ever done, then give “Drowning in the Fountain Of Youth” a run. It’s not cool and it’s not hip, but it could be your new favourite record. Streaming now on your favourite tech gizmo.