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Review: Danielson, Trying Hartz (First Fruits ‘94 – ‘04)

Trying Hartz presents a satisfying microcosm of one of the world’s most inventive and ridiculous bands.


Danielson, Trying Hartz (First Fruits '94 - '04)

Fruit has always been a motif for Danielson. The band’s mission statement is to musically bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit; lead singer Daniel Smith has dressed up as an elaborate, nine-foot-tall fruit tree on stage; and now they’ve released Trying Hartz (First Fruits ‘94 – ‘04), a not-quite-career-spanning collection that plays as a satisfying, if slightly rough, musical cider.

There’s a haphazard feeling to this album’s two-disc construction, put together in non-chronological order and without any sense of theme but which nonetheless adds a welcome air of manic instability. The album suffers slightly because it excludes songs from 2006’s Ships, the band’s best work to date, but as a historical document of their first 10 years, Trying Hartz is nothing if not representative: In addition to seven live bonus tracks, the collection is comprised of 21 songs culled from the band’s first six albums.

The live tracks are paltry and often silly but there are brief moments of brilliance. “Don’t You Be the Judge,” in which Danielson picks crowd members to improvise song verses ending with the title phrase, is almost cringe-inducing but also clearly exhibits the ebullient spirit of the band’s live performances, while “Sold to the Nice Rich Man” embodies the simplistic sprit of a children’s sing-along, a fact only abetted by Smith’s tendency to trill like a cartoon mouse.

Put simply, Danielson is refreshingly bizarre, one of those rare bands that exists on its own creative plane, sometimes succeeding because of its Christian leanings and sometimes in spite of them. Here, as with any of their work, there is no hint of proselytizing; even serious ideas are presented with such easy-going buoyancy that it’s nearly impossible to get through a song with a straight face. Despite its no-frills approach, Trying Hartz works solidly, presenting a satisfying microcosm of one of the world’s most inventive and ridiculous bands.

Label: Secretly Canadian Release Date: November 11, 2008 Buy: Amazon

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