Static and Scripture

by Bryan Dunn

Track listing: Leaving Austin 7 AM, Cold Dead Thing, Audio Stereo Radio, 3 Years On, Queen of New York City, Sally Wait, Life As Fiction, Your Doppelganger, Pleasure, We Dance Industrial

A Brief History

Having followed Bryan Dunn's career intimately close for the better part of two decades, something readily apparent throughout those years has been listeners' quick identification with his songwriting, both musically and lyrically. His "timeless" writing style has been cited by more than a few, on more than a few occasions. Perhaps contributing to fans' affection for Dunn’s writing is that he expresses personal truths, both ups and downs, honestly through his storytelling. Whereas some wear their hearts on their sleeves, Dunn's heart lies wide open, spread across his discography fully exposed for his audience's entertainment...and entertained they've been.

While there is a commonality that binds his songs together, this does not imply monotony. To the contrary, Bryan has managed to dynamically write his life around the sets of folk/pop 3 Penny Opera in Austin during the 1990's, and adapt his verses to Simple Thing's crisp, commercial power-pop efforts in post-turn-of-the-century New York City. Where Bryan has struck gold, however, is not crafting his songs around a certain style of music but instead, in recent years, putting efforts into writing his very own. With his first solo effort, Static and Scripture, Bryan officially closes the book on being the primary songwriter for a band and begins a new chapter in his artistic life by removing the abstraction of a band name from between he and his listeners.

With this album, we find Dunn in his earliest solo artist incarnation--taking this first step toward musical independence by co-producing the album with former Simple Thing bandmate, David Cerequas. A backing band not having yet been assembled, the drum tracks are programmed and the duo records everything themselves over several weeks in their Brooklyn studio. They also include several songs on the album that are not technically "Bryan Dunn solo originals": three come from Simple Thing's later live show set lists ("Sally Wait," "Pleasure," and the hidden "Sleep") and Cerequas co-writes the spacey Duran-esque "Life as Fiction" and "Your Doppelganger."

Static and Scripture

Static and Scripture is an effort long-awaited by Bryan Dunn's following, some having urged him to record a solo album 10-15 years ago. The album is at once ambitious with its eleven-song length and careful in its teaming with the familiarity of Cerequas and previously utilized recording environs.

The album begins with the deliberate tempo of a hometown-inspired "Leaving Austin, 7AM," its closing refrain "You are home to me" a tribute to Dunn's self-professed musical birthplace. "Cold Dead Thing" follows with a sardonic, heart-wrenching autobiographical pop feel, familiar and endearing to his long-time fans, who sympathize and identify with many of his lyrics. The break-out fan-favorite from Static is "Audio Stereo Radio," a Beatles-era vocal-harmony-heavy pop song that pays additional tribute to that band with a "Love is all you need" reference. Like many a Dunn composition, the hook is key—its simplicity, universality, and ease for singing-along-with all coming together for maximum appeal.

Another Austin-alluding track is "3 Years On," containing a "Travis County sweethearts" line. But more prominent within these lyrics is a gem of a Dunn-ism, or what is deemed for this review "a lyric that jumps out and sticks with you long after you’ve turned off your I-Pod":

They like to think they’re pretty but they’re not.

And another:

Beauty is a sickness without cure,
but I had to break her heart to be sure.

And yet another:

I threw down my guns without a fight,
but she was lyin’ when she wore that dress of white.

And a kicker, rounding out each chorus:

Everybody loves me
but nobody will miss me when I’m gone.

On display throughout Static and Scripture is the wonderfully multi-dimensional structure of a Bryan Dunn song. Each will have its hook and catch phrases, almost without fail, which are certainly both hooky and catchy. But delving further into lyrics like "They like to think they’re pretty but they’re not" you discover the lead into that phrase being "A thousand lovely step-sisters, a thousand Cinderellas for the plot…" followed by the second Dunn-ism quoted above. So in this instance, you get autobiography, fantasy, bio-based geography, love, heartbreak, vengeance, tradition, all knocked into place with a tasty dose of artistic self-degradation.

Static and Scripture continues with an ode to ex-lovers ("Queen of New York City"), a beautiful interpretation of a drunken beckoning ("Sally Wait"), and eventually ends with the aforementioned and non-documented "Sleep." This album is certainly not Dunn’s best effort, based solely on the knowledge of the certainty of future recordings. With Static and Scripture, however, Bryan Dunn has begun to find his independent songwriting voice. With years of honing songs for many other people and many other purposes behind him, it is clear with Static and Scripture that he has found his ultimate purpose and destination: writing music that expresses himself--openly, deeply, honestly, and impressively--to all who will listen.

Posted on 6/1/06