Withered Hand – New Gods

Anyone deciding to stay is bludgeoned again and again with his relentless wet sentimentality.

Label: Fortuna POP!

Rating:

Dan Willson did not begin his music career until the age of 30. It was only then, prompted by the death of a close friend, was Withered Hand born. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Willson was forbidden from attending school assemblies, birthday parties or Christmas celebrations – and his music shows it. His first album, ‘Good News’, was, rather expectedly, anything but. It was a thesis in misery and insecurity. Standing out from contemporary singer-songwriter whinging in its crude, unashamed content, it addressed unrequited love, religious failings, masturbation and the more general theme of considering oneself a bit of a pathetic.

Five years later he’s back with second album, ‘New Gods’, and, as the similarity in its title suggests, it’s not a huge departure from his debut. As the opening line in single ‘Black Tambourine’ testifies (‘I’m older now/ and I feel the same’), Willson is still moping about ‘the big idea’, love and self-doubt. His voice suits his style perfectly: high-pitched, fairly whiny and sure to turn many from his music on first listen. However, persevere and it becomes engrossing. Alongside the simple melodies and uninspiring band accompaniment, Willson’s voice and lyrics are what makes Withered Hand interesting. He writes painful and honest lyrics. The sort of self-centred introspection that would have you shunned from social gatherings sharpish finds a place in Willson’s music.

‘New Gods’, though more of the same, is a more mature record. The sound is fuller and less stripped back, a move that works against Willson’s style, but some of the song constructions are more thoughtful and complex, which helps the vocals sound less like just tearful self-destructing. However, though the writing is clever and at times funny, the whininess and constant soul-searching shuts the audience out, and anyone deciding to stay is bludgeoned again and again with his relentless wet sentimentality. One can’t help but think Willson’s introspection is best saved for himself as a sort of therapeutic tool, and not general consumption.