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Pop/Rock - Released March 4, 1997 | Work

Everyone knows that hype kills, and being touted as the next anything, especially "the next Bob Dylan," is usually, for the most part, the kiss of death. So for those of you turned off by such things, we'll skip those kinds of superlatives, because this record should not be missed. In a genre that on the surface seems to be progressing, but in reality is becoming staler every year, Dan Bern's take on folk music is refreshing to say the least. Bern doesn't treat the music with kid gloves, nor does he try to beautify or jazz it up. He simply attacks the music, much in the way Dylan did, from the solo acoustic "Jerusalem," to the punkish "Go to Sleep" or the spoken melody of "Estelle," which hearkens back to Dylan's own "Brownsville Girl." Lyrically, whether proclaiming himself the Messiah or merely the "king of the world," Bern's acerbic wit and surprising poignancy will pull you back time and time again. So don't listen to those anointing him with phrases like "the next Dylan" or "the best singer/songwriter in years"; just listen to Dan Bern's debut and see for yourself. © Brett Hartenbach /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2001 | Messenger Records

Like Jim White's contemporaneous No Such Place, Dan Bern's New American Language attempts to reconfigure the American cultural landscape by appropriating images and converting them to the mysterious currency of strange folk music. Stylistically, Bern is firmly in the tradition of the folk revival, with a significantly more electric sound than on his previous releases. There is more than a little bit of Bob Dylan's pitched moan in his voice, drawing out vowel sounds on the resonant nouns, imbuing the delivery with the high-status illusion of a deeper meaning, even if it is pure nonsense. The album-closing "Thanksgiving Day Parade" is a direct homage to the form of Dylan's epic poem-song "Desolation Row," describing a literal procession of esoteric images and obscure characters whose meanings are defined simply by being drawn in the same scene. It is a fitting album-closer. Throughout the disc, nicely colored instruments join Bern's in the mix, including Wil Masisak's myriad keyboards, Eben Grace's guitar and banjo, Paul Kuhn's violin, and many others. On the last track, the instruments join the cavalcade one by one, building to a glorious crescendo. If Bern has a weakness, it is his smugness, but it is one that is easily forgivable in light of his haunting wordplay and sense of American expansiveness. © Jesse Jarnow /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 4, 2015 | BFD

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Rock - Released October 16, 1997 | Work

Issued in 1997 by Work Records, Dan Bern's six-song EP Dog Boy Van was originally released independently in 1996, before his signing with the label. The record, like his self-titled debut for Work, kicks off with "Jerusalem" (the same recording), but what follows are five witty, insightful, moving tunes that hold their own next to his best work. Like Randy Newman, one of Bern's strengths is the fact that he'll risk offending someone to make his point; he says what needs to be said and then moves on. At the same time, he's not afraid to be sensitive, vulnerable or even self-deprecating. In the best folk tradition, he also has the knack for telling tall tales like in the hilarious "Talkin' Alien Abduction Blues," as well as the ability to extract timeless emotions from a timely subject, as in the affecting, Woody Guthrie-inspired "Oklahoma" (written about the bombing in Oklahoma City). Dog Boy Van is a welcome release from a vital new artist's past. © Brett Hartenbach /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released March 31, 1998 | Work

With the release of his 1997 self-titled debut for Work, along with the label's reissuing of Dog Boy Van, his 1996 indie EP, Dan Bern made the folk music world stand up and take notice (like him or not). Produced by fellow folk iconoclast Ani DiFranco, his third release, Fifty Eggs, extends the musical onslaught he began with those records. DiFranco balances a light touch with forceful sonic ornamentation to draw the most out of the tunes, while Bern, with a reckless abandon, fires phrase after phrase that somehow seem to fall into place when all is said and done. As with his two previous recordings, Bern shines his light on various cultural icons, such as Tiger Woods, Monica Seles, Jesus Christ, and a plethora of "chick singers," most often treating them with empathy, understanding, and wonder, or as pieces in the greater scheme of things and not just easy targets. Stirring numbers such as the touching "Oh Sister" and his paean to tennis star Monica Seles, "Monica," are among his finest, but he seems to misfire with some of the more humorous tracks, which merely come across as better than average novelty songs. A number of clever ideas fail to reach fruition or to call you back like his best work, which would take unexpected turns and reveal new bits of insight with each listening -- songs such as "Cure for AIDS" and "Different Worlds" are interesting enough the first time or two, but grow a bit tiresome with repeated listenings. On the other hand, "No Missing Link" tells the hilarious tale of how an ape's past sexual encounter "of the third kind" created mankind, a theory that he proceeds to back up. Fifty Eggs may not fulfill the promise of Bern's first two efforts, but his somewhat skewed view of the world, along with engaging melodies, a startling poignancy, and his no-holds-barred approach make it worthwhile. © Brett Hartenbach /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Messenger Records

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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2004 | Messenger Records

Folkie Dan Bern subtitling his My Country II "Music to beat Bush by" places him firmly to the left in the debate surrounding the 2004 presidential election. But Bern is a strong songwriter, and he emphasizes My Country II's music over its message. He's definitely not a fan of 43, but there's more on Bern's mind than regime change. Dylan meets Costello in the bashed-out sonics of "Tyranny," and the track's world-weariness comes from issues larger than one administration. Likewise, "After the Parade" is an everysoldier's lament, suggestive of Eric Bogle's powerfully sad "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda." These tracks are certainly relevant to My Country's central theme. But they make the album about more than just one man, even if Bern saves his real ire for Mr. Bush. "President" is a funny folk ramble personifying W's first 100 days, while the title track takes issue with conservatives' demonizing of dissenting opinion. Best might be the decidedly unsubtle "Bush Must Be Defeated." His acoustic guitar twining over downcast electronic percussion, Bern rhymes about 4,000 things with the word "defeated," and they're all bad for the President. Example: "Bush must be defeated/His goodbye coffee heated/His White House bed short-sheeted/The imposer excreted." For those who share Bern's sentiment, My Country II will be a rallying cry. But it's also a testament to his skill as a singer and songwriter that the album stays the course, offering music, and not just message. © Johnny Loftus /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2002 | Messenger Records

In the summer of 2002, Dan Bern and his International Jewish Banking Conspiracy bandmate Brian Schey (aka Slim Nickel) lit out for Europe for a quick acoustic tour of the old continent. World Cup is a mixed-media document of that barnstorming trek combining a travel diary kept by Bern and a CD-EP of five new songs written along the way. The recordings were made simply, sparely, and on the fly, and as such have a wearied, slightly scruffy quality. They are stripped-down and stoic, yet every bit as lyrical, romantic, swooning, and imbued with the troubadour spirit, if not the sound, of Bern's temporary surroundings. Only "Suicide" is something of a throwaway; the other four are top-drawer songs indeed. "All Right Kind of Girl," with its lovely backwoods harmonizing, and "My Love Is Not for Sale" are particularly fine, filled with tangibly felt imagery. Although the comparison came too easily in the past, Bern on these two tunes really does inescapably recall and match the Dylan of Freewheelin' and Another Side: quixotic and unsentimental, restless but resolved, heartfelt but non-committal, detached but affecting. Truly humane, deeply textured songwriting. An equal treat to the music, however, is the slim diary itself. Bern fills its pages with sketches, scattered observations, piecemeal lyrics, and even genuine fiction, while going through the range of moods, from grouchy, groping, and spent to probing and perpetually curious. Even when bits fall flat, as they occasionally do, World Cup provides a fascinating peak -- perhaps even some insight -- into the workings of the beautiful mind of one of rock's most important artists. © Stanton Swihart /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2002 | Messenger Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Messenger Records

Though part of the new folk clique of the 1990s, Dan Bern still goes to the source for his inspiration: on much of BREATHE Bern emulates (whether consciously or not) Bob Dylan and The Band. His easy, laid-back singing (as on the title track), unhurried melodies ("Past Belief"), and facility with the English language ("Rain") mark him as a disciple of 1960s folk-rock, and a pretty good one at that. © TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released September 22, 2019 | Dan Bern

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Rock - Released January 1, 2003 | Messenger Records

With Fleeting Days, singer/songwriter Dan Bern seems to finally escape from the formidable influence of Bob Dylan on his songwriting. Instead, the 13 songs presented here take their cues more often from the likes of Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen (more the former than the later). Ultimately, though, Bern is his own man. The rampant surrealism of his previous albums is a bit toned down on Fleeting Days, though that's not a complaint. Some of the songs on Fleeting Days are quite lovely in their modesty, including the strange religious love ballad "Eva" and the epic-styled "Fly Away." His sense of humor is intact, though not quite as forced as it was before. Like the title cut of his contemporary Swastika EP, "Crow" is a singsongy rock tune with a solidly quirky central image. Likewise, "Graceland" begins with a fragment of the Paul Simon tune of the same name, before launching into a not always successful pastiche of Elvis-related numbers. Much of the album's sound is defined by the electric snapping rhythm guitar of Eben Grace, which roots the album firmly in Costello territory. © Jesse Jarnow /TiVo