DAWN OBERG: BRING

July 10th, 2015 | Album reviews

DAWN OBERG
Bring
Blossom Theory Records

I heard the clever, acidulous Ms. O do her stuff at Genghis Cohen, a famed oldtimey folkie joint over in the Fairfax District. She took this tiny space filled with shuffling strangers completely into her confidence by force of eloquence, yes, but mainly by force. As lyricist, Oberg is has all lightly mocking wiseass of Noel Coward plus a sentimental side very much in the old Master’s line, if completely beyond most of his imitators past and present. She excels at everything our old Angeleno pals Stew & the Negro Problem do, only by herself with no more unction or showbiz razzle-dazzle than Randy Newman or the eloquent drunk at the end of the bar. This abbreviated set, she kept reminding us, was but aural proxy for the magnificence of her third album, which I was slipped on the way out. Bring is like one of those LPs Harry Nilsson would bring out in the early seventies to sparse notice and one-lunged acclaim. Wry, gently bitter yet faintly humming with the kind of optimism that must see rainbows flashing out of dumpsters or go mad, these nine songs are like a chapbook from west coast rock’s own Gertrude Stein. Starting with “Caitlin and Fire,” a dainty account of setting a high school locker ablaze and winding up with the Stan Frebergian “Republican Jesus,” we’re treated between times to sweet diversions like “Incantation,” a straight-out rocker, and “Martini Geometry,” with its slyly liquid evocation of Euclid and the High Llamas. On disc, the impish Oberg is incisive and refined, but alone on a stage, something definitely more sanguine is plain in her songs and their delivery; perhaps some inner Sid Vicious, hyperliterate but given to swinging with heavy force. Don’t tell me this rock thing is over, hoss; Original Sin don’t go down that easy. Ask any Republican.

—Ron Garmon