Saturday, August 15, 2009

Marky's song #7: Friends of Dean Martinez - "Landfall"

I don’t drive, but if I did, Friends of Dean Martinez would be a mandatory portion of all road trip soundtracks. Their music conjures up images of endless journeys through flatlands where the lack of scenery is exactly what makes things so scenic. When I close my eyes I can imagine the constant hum of a solitary car engine as the vehicle rolls along a two-lane highway.

Hailing from Tucson, the band was originally named Friends of Dean Martin, but they were forced to change it at the behest of Mr. Martin’s estate. This turned out to actually be a prescient move; the sound they started with might invoke the image of a reveling, inebriated Martin enjoying the evening, but the sounds they ended up with most certainly did not.

When FoDM first hit the scene, “alternative” music was starting to move away from grunge bombast. Curious listeners had become saturated with fuzz box guitar and were looking for new sounds. “Lounge” music was one of the many styles to fill that gap. But a lot of the stuff was simply too cloying for me. FoDM wasn’t the most egregious offender, but the band didn’t really get interesting until they moved away from copping Martin Denny grooves.

By the time their potential swansong Lost Horizon dropped, the pandering towards the martini-and-tiki-lamp crowd had ended. In its place, they composed dirges to accompany staring out the car window at the continual late night flickering of lines and lights on the highway. (All my wanderlust fantasies inevitably have me sitting in the passenger seat.)

Lost Horizon is a very “dark”-sounding album and this track is the opener. For all the hubbub about moving away from the image of the self-aggrandizing guitar rocker, it’s ironic that their strongest song should “rock” as much as it does and that the focal point is a truly heroic guitar solo. The keyboards shift back and forth between two chords as the song swells up with fretboard runs, climaxing and having a big release several minutes in, only to go back and do it all a second time before closing.

Friends of Dean Martinez - "Landfall"

Listen to this song on headphones with the lights off. Technically, Friends of Dean Martinez still exists, but they haven’t released anything since Lost Horizon, which was put out in 2005. If they truly have split up, they smartly went out on a triumphant note.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely song. Reminds me a bit of some of Pete Namlook's stuff (only the guitar work here is way better). Very calming. Thanks for this.