Danielle Dax

Biter Of Thorpe, 1983


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


I know what you must be thinking...“Who?!?”…Well, let me introduce the woefully overlooked one-woman powerhouse known as Danielle Dax. Like her contemporary Prince, she pens, plays and produces her own music. She was even on the Sire label for a brief spell from 1987-1990. But back then, who the hell could compete with that other Sire artist, Madonna? Debbie Harry will likely tell you what a bitch of a time she had on the label too. But if experimental and edgy alternative goth music is your taste, then Danielle Dax will undoubtedly quench your palate.

Blink and you would’ve missed her. You can count the studio albums Dax released on one hand. Her debut, Pop-Eyes, is the least radio-friendly of the lot. The squeaky voice on the opener “Bed Caves” may be off-putting to most (as if the graphically disturbing cover photo of body organs doesn’t keep you at bay), but she changes it up with a stuttering growl. It’s strangely captivating, almost as though you can’t turn away for fear you might miss something. She follows this manic first cut with a slow and sparse acoustic number, “Everyone Squeaks Gently.” Squeak on, Danielle, squeak on.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As a reference point, you can almost say that Danielle Dax is a cross between Siouxsie Sioux and Nina Hagen. They all fall under the “for the experimental and daring set only” banner nicely. If you’re as tired of predictable, cookie cutter pop like I am, Danielle’s music will be a revelation to you. She even has something of a jazz fusion cut on this first effort, “The Wheeled Wagon,” stray sax and muted trumpets included, all of which played by Dax. How so many Brits managed solid careers in the ‘80s and not Danielle Dax is beyond me. Talent in spades, and just as pitch black.

Percolating synths and nursery rhyme melodies abound on the enchanting, “Here Comes The Harvest Buns,” before bringing the horns back for another round on the percussively upbeat “The Shamemen.” Perhaps the ‘90s dance outfit the Shamen may have gotten their name from this song? Danielle opts for a quivering, almost operatic vibrato vocal here, which may be not be everyone’s cup of tea. Something of an afterthought, “Kernow” is an overlong instrumental, which only manages to feel redundant and unnecessary. It wouldn’t even work on a B-movie soundtrack. Sorry, Danielle, but it simply doesn’t advance the plot, or your cause.

The production values on Pop-Eyes aren’t as up to par as they are on the Sire releases, Dark Adapted Eye and Blast The Human Flower. For the uninitiated, I’d start with those instead (as I did). Only the bravest among us will dig deeper for her first three studio albums. A dirge like “Numb Companions,” for example, will be a challenge to sit through. And I’ve always struggled to suppress a laugh whenever I hear Danielle’s bewitching delivery on “Tower Of Lies.” Boil, boil, toil and trouble, indeed! When she hits those high notes and the screeching keyboards kick in, even your cat will run for cover. So, while there is still plenty to appreciate on Pop-Eyes, it’s your eardrums that just might pop and bleed instead. Maybe the cover art was a warning after all.

Rating: B-

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© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Biter Of Thorpe, and is used for informational purposes only.