Dark, Macabre, Unhinged, Unsettling. Meet Amigo The Devil.
Release Date: 16th April 2021
Label: Liars Club/Regime Music Group
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Digital
Amigo The Devil is songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Danny Kirano. Born Against is his second album. He hails from Austin, Texas, and his acclaim locally is such that the city’s mayor, Steve Adler, declared 16th November 2019 to be Amigo The Devil Day. ATD makes music that strongly reflects his Greek/Spanish parentage and incorporates strains of Eastern European folk and Spanish/Cuban bolero. That summary gives only the vaguest hint of what to expect from this album. He’s known for his storytelling capabilities and Born Against is packed with stories that are rambling, darkly funny, oddly disturbing, often macabre and occasionally unhinged. This is not light entertainment!
ATD quotes Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Fiona Apple and Father John Misty as influences, and they’re all detectable in ATD’s lyrics and delivery style. Tom Waits in particular, whose spirit pervades just about every part of this album. Whether it’s intended or just merely coincidental, I would also add Frank Zappa and Tom Lehrer to that list. If the dark satire practiced by either of those is your thing, then Born Against is an album you’ll love.
The songs are utterly intriguing and the lyrical messages come thick and fast. This is the type of album that you can listen to over and over, and continue to hear something new each time. And it’s not just the lyrics that draw the listener in. The music and production are excellent. Produced by Beau Bedford at Modern Electric Recorders in Dallas, Texas, the sound is clean and fresh, with instruments like mandolin, strings, tuba, clarinet, upright bass and synths all used sparingly to add colour to ATD’s guitar/vocal. Truly pan-genre, the album features big, string-laden ballads, bluegrass, straight-ahead rock and folky singer/songwriter material, often spiced up by avant-garde soundscapes built with clashes, stomps, clicks and clangs. ,At one point, eventhe sound of fish frying. You won’t have heard anything quite like this before.
There’s a surprise in just about every song. The opening track Small Stone transforms from a Tom Waits-like dirge into a schmaltzy ballad a la Englebert Humperdink, before settling into a sultry rocker. Drop For Every Hour combines Greek and Cuban musical styles and culminates in a fantastic cacophony of strings and Better Ways To Fry A Fish moves seamlessly from folksy guitar and harmonica to full-fat frying. But it’s really the lyrics that provide the real shocks and surprises, whether it’s the tale of a schoolkid coming home with blood coming out of his ears and the girl overdosing in a photo booth that set the scene for Quiet As A Rat, the image of the late-night drinker with “More of his drink in his beard than he drank” in Another Man’s Grave or the unsettling concept of “Drinking piss to survive,” in the ghostly and anarchic Shadow.
But strangely, it is, perhaps, the more conventional (and believe me, that’s a description that is VERY relative) songs that leave the most lasting impression. Different Anymore finds ATD searching for some form of normality and redemption, as he declares “I don’t want to be different anymore, I’ve changed,” The hilarious 24k Casket ponders the vagaries of a miserable life in cossetted luxury and eternal rest in a 24-carat coffin and the superlative Letter From Death Row is a set of startlingly realistic thoughts from a condemned man to his soon-to-be bereaved partner that concludes with the payoff line “In less than 24 hours, I’ll just be dust and flowers.”
Born Against is preceded by three single releases, all available now – the aforementioned Another Man’s Grave and Quiet As A Rat and the latest single release, the excellent Murder At The Bingo Hall, the story of a competitive and paranoid gambler who takes his involvement in bingo to obsessive levels. It contains lines like “Someone should call the cops! I’m killing it” as the bingo game reaches its climax and “Then the room got quiet… My breath was still… It gave me the feeling in my chest, that only losing everything will. The game begins now,” as the reality of the game’s outcome becomes clear. Like much of the album, it’s a story that’s intense, disturbing and fantastically funny all at the same time.
Recommended for anyone who is bored with normality.
Watch the Official video for Quiet As A Rat, from the album, here: