Sgt. Dunbar and The Hobo Banned; review
Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned 2007 self-released The Thing About Time is a passionate collection of brass centric gypsy folk rock featuring a community of spirited voices and an array of instruments that sound like weathered antiques given new life.
This band of nine multi-instrumentalists and counting play the guitar, accordion, trumpet, trombone, flugel horn, French horn, mandolin, saxophone, violin, ukulele, singing saws, banjo, bass, typewriter. The stand out is the phenomenal found object percussion of hot water pipes, stainless steel chair, squeaky glass pot top and coffee mugs that imaginatively enhance the festive atmosphere.
The songs fluctuate between intentionally sloppy melding of instruments and cohesive mixing, two distinct but agreeable directions. The large band sound is reminiscent of Bright Eyes touring band during Lifted. It has that kind of charming mess and endearing qualities. It also reveals the admiration of The Neutral Milk Hotel.
Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned is a lyrically smart outfit. The word Banned is cleverly chosen to highlight their culturally rebellious point of view. They weigh in on philosophical issues of life and time. Refreshingly nuanced is the term Wake Up that is repeated on several songs, affirming a commitment to staying awake and being aware.
The first offering“Passing Time” starts with a rumbling of guitar strumming, accordion, horns and Alex Muro’s nasal fervent vocals that plea wake up. / I hear the sound months make when they disappear / gone into air and only clues remain / that they were ever here / leaf floats freely down and turns into ground /. The full force of the orchestra is revved up as Wake Up, Wake Up is emphasized and harnessed between verses leading to an awesome prolonged lullaby chant “Dave’s Song” in the vein of “Hey Jude”. / Wake up / wake up / you can’t sleep all day / you can’t sleep all day/ the sun is out calling your name / the sun is out calling your name /.
“Don’t Fall Asleep” is an appeal to those that have given up hope. / Dear little girl / I feel that your sadness is quite profound / chasing you around your mind / no place to hide / is dragging you down /. This song builds in volume and intensity employing the singing saw to weep and the full chorus to implore / please don’t fall asleep / when you wake the world is a dream /.
The song “The Weight” has a plucky bounce using the ukulele, guitar strum and singing saw to launch a weighty message / some peoples shame could fill up the ocean, some peoples sadness can block all the sky/ some peoples guilt could pave every highway and some peoples fears makes many men die…then the reaffirming chorus / oh how heavy this gritty grating life / that the world is on / oh how silly is all you strain and strife / build a world so real and strong.
“Realism Is The Purest Form of Art” features banjo, lazy horns and clashing symbols with pitter-patter beat. While "Telescope" is slower and examines how far you need to look away when love is untrue. / Do you believe in karma / does she believe in you / but what if I told you / that she wasn’t true? / Oh what would you do? / Both songs exhibit Muro’s vocal range that strains higher to reach sighs of emotion.
The under-belly of the beast is urgently felt in the stalwart rants on “Communist Father” with vocal force and added experimental accents that mimic the uncertain future. / Under the brightly blemished blanket of the night / an arrogant anthill with life / while weeping cities shed tears of light / into the unknown vastness of the universe /
Sgt. Dumbo and the Hobo Banned recorded The Thing About Time in the living room and basement. This homegrown undertaking amplifies the community spirit they embrace and has enabled them to create ambitious and worthy music!
CMJ Pete's Candy Store October 21 Brooklyn NY