The menacing singer has embraced pop music on his second album - but it's still a dark, difficult listen.
Rock’n’roll is littered with men you wouldn’t be best pleased about bumping into down a dark alley. From Nick Cave and The Cramps’ late Lux Interior to Tom Waits and Josh Homme, all have, at certain points in their careers, succeeded in creating characters that terrified the living shit out of listeners as much as they’ve thrilled and enthralled. Daughn Gibson – the imposing alter ego of Carlisle, Pennsylvania’s Josh Martin, a one time truck-driver, adult bookstore worker and former member of stoner hardcore band Pearls And Brass – is the latest in this long line of dodgy dudes whose magnificently melancholy way with melody outweighs the collective creep factor of their sinister storytelling.
Daughn set out his seedy stall last year with the lurching menace of his debut ‘All Hell’. Cobbling together disparate genres like a GarageBand Dr Frankenstein, he sutured hillbilly hustles with the kind of spacious urban electronica that’s been finessed by Jamie xx and Burial. Fifteen months down the line, ‘Me Moan’, a title that brings to mind a primal, almost cavemannish confession of angst, ups the ante by bringing a subtle but certainly not unnoticed pop element into the fray, adding a more direct danceability into the demonic fracas. It’s in the superb ‘Phantom Rider’ that Daughn really nails this fresh focus, a bona fide banger whose haunted house beats give way to a towering, almost overwhelmingly catchy chorus. The bad romance of ‘Won’t You Climb’ also skips along with a dreamy, soulful refrain that’s more sublime than scary.
Despite this new-found interest in crowd-pleasing production, the ominous tales still prevail. “I collect these stories,” Daughn explained to NME earlier this year, of the dark incidents that inspire his utterly unique mini-masterpieces. “I hoard them. I wanna hear every detail.” When he’s not crooning about a “fucked up Judgment Day” and smoking cigs in historic battlegrounds on ‘All My Days Off’, he’s getting deep into some looming prison funk on ‘The Pisgee Nest’, which concerns the true story of a gang-bang in the woods near his home. Over fractured, clashing sonic wails, Daughn presides over the menacing tale like a nonchalant sheriff who’s seen the very worst that life has to offer.
Experimentation takes a front seat for most of ‘Me Moan’, with ‘Mad Ocean’ sampling bagpipes recorded from a marching band on a Flag Day parade, Daughn twisting the noises nabbed from in among the popcorn and patriotism into a skiffle by way of a thug-step shuffle. Elsewhere, ‘Kissin On The Blacktop’ is a twangy rockabilly number loaded with glitchy flashes and rattles, as if Eddie Cochran had just rolled up to a Peckham warehouse rave. You might not want to run into Daughn Gibson on a lonely night, but you’d be a fool if you didn’t listen to him push things forward with such noirish flair.