Published Oct 19, 2016Dean Brody is frustrating; this album more than his last one. He sings beautifully, and some of the instrumentation is smart and forward-thinking. There are also some solid attempts at storytelling, and he's not afraid to have fun. All of this should be lauded.
But Beautiful Freakshow rarely works as a complete concept. The front of the album is loaded with party songs about summers floating down rivers ("Soggy Bottom Summer") and ends with songs about middle-age couples ("Blueberry Sky") and a prosaic, slightly cringe-worthy song about growing older, in the Harry Chapin vein ("Time"). Sometimes, the instrumentation is off, too — it rarely speeds up or hits the relaxed groove he's striving for. Even striving for a relaxed groove is part of the problem; Brody is working too hard for it. There are too many songs, and they often go on for too long.
Brody's singles have always been stronger than his albums, and with a solid edit, Beautiful Freakshow could have been great. He can do blue-eyed tropical sounds really well (especially on the title track), and some of the party songs would sound great in July. Plus, when he gets sad, he sells the melancholy well.
But an album needs a frame, and a ruthless culling instinct. Freakshow has neither. I keep wanting more from Brody, and he doesn't quite deliver. I look forward to when he does. (Open Road)