Published Sep 17, 2020To fixate on the quantity of Daniel Romano's output in 2020, instead of the high quality of it, is to be blinded by volume.
So, never mind that How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his 10th release of 2020 (and counting — the world might be ending but the year is hopefully not wrapping up ahead of schedule) and instead dig its unique rock splendour, wherein vocals work together beautifully (wtf: "Amaretto and Coke" is just too gorgeous a singing display) and a band swings and storms and explodes at all of the exact right times.
People in such bands are often relegated to not only the last but also the least so first, let's name the Outfit, as it has Wu-Tang'ed beside Romano here: Julianna Riolino (vocals), David Nardi (guitar, vocals), Roddy Rossetti (bass) and Ian Romano (drums). Features were provided by Mark Lalama (organ, piano), Briana Salmena (vocals), Victor Belcastro (sax) and Aaron Hutchinson (trumpet).
The album's earliest lore suggests this configuration gathered together, played live off the floor, running through the songs in sequence up to a max of three takes, and overdubs were never recorded ever. Fuck you, overdubs!
Those are the fascinating facts, and the purity of process they speak to adds some mystique, sure — but in truth, whatever happened between these people sounds magical without knowing all of the details. After the hypnotic lure of the opener, "A Rat Without a Tale," an electric guitar rips through space to welcome us to the reasoned anger of the title track. Romano sings of passion fruitlessly negotiating with commerce and you can almost smell all the worthless cash burning.
On "Green Eye-Shade" and "First Yoke," the Plastic Ono Band-y rollicking rage is measured slightly by the family band vocals. At least a bit: their sweetness is vaguely eerie, as these back-up flourishes are often delivered with an even calm in the midst of musical storms. It doesn't sound like a cult gathering, that's for sure?
Romano has proven himself dynamically agile over the years, leaving any genre pigeonhole before you can even spot him in one. As they proved on their astounding and recently released live album, Okay Wow, the Outfit are onto a sound that feels familiar yet exhilaratingly fresh and foreign. Rock'n'roll that celebrates the open-ended nebulousness of the term.
How Ill begins with a charge but begins to relax a bit for the two-part "Joys Too Often Hollow," which allows Romano room to sing more sweetly, yet also signals a psychedelic warping of sounds and feelings ahead.
With its horns, keys, and other tasteful textures (including an alluring bass gallop on the superb "No More Disheartened by the Dawn"), How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is a thoughtfully orchestrated masterpiece that reveals something neat and new the longer you stare at it. Lyrically, musically, and critically, Daniel Romano is a soothsaying sorcerer operating in plain sight, and we wouldn't do so bad to pay attention to his thoughts about how we're living in the world today — whenever, and how ever often, he asks us to. (You've Changed)