CD Review: Daniel Amos, “Doppelganger Collectors Edition”

Written by CD Reviews, Music

Make no mistake about it. Daniel Amos’ second effort of the Alarma Chronicles, Doppelganger, was weird. In order to cut through the preconceptions, the clatter, and the propaganda, it had to be.

In 1983, a record was released that was so far ahead of its time, and so different from what surrounded it, that there were only two ways to go in its regard. You either hid it behind the stacks of Tammy Faye Bakker records (true story!) and prayed nobody would venture farther, or you fell for it sideways. There was no middle path. Make no mistake about it. Daniel Amos’ second effort of the Alarma Chronicles, Doppelganger, was weird. In order to cut through the preconceptions, the clatter, and the propaganda, it had to be. The phrase “wake-up call” is overused, practically devoid of meaning, but that’s exactly what Doppelganger was in 1983.

DACoverSome could easily say it is just as much in 2014. Look at the cover alone, that mannequin posed next to venetian blinds, it’s dead-eyed, golem-like countenance. It clutches a mask; a soft, fleshy face…an acceptable face. A selfie of the whole of humanity. The music mixes up punk (“Little Crosses”, “Memory Lane”), funk (“Mall (All Over the World)”), and pretty pop (“Distance and Direction”, “Here I Am, There You Are”) not while chasing behind bands like Talking Heads and King Crimson, but in parallel with them. And there was much of the wit that Daniel Amos, now comfortably appropriating the truncated DA, was known for. Except this time it was a much darker sort of humor.

Lead vocalist and chief songwriter Terry Scott Taylor let loose with game shows for Christians who misunderstood their mandate (“New Car!”), a United Nations interpreter bank set to a rockabilly beat (“Autographs For The Sick”), and more. While the album has often been categorized as a diatribe against the modern church — and there are clear elements of that in evidence — it is much more about the idolatry of the self, and how we chose to make the walk of faith not of sacrifice, not of being in a place where indignity is real, and not as a model of the mission “to live as Christ.” Instead, we wanted the rich, famous and sexy version where heaven was a candy factory, God was our personal Willy Wonka, and when we threw our hands to the air, down rained gold-wrapped chocolate coins. It is partly about the church, but mostly about what we did to it.

faceonAnd if everything that has been said up to now leads one to believe Doppelganger has to be the preachiest drag of an album, a stone-cold bummer, rest assured in the knowledge that it kicks like a mule and rocks with the best of them, even now. In the capable hands of Taylor, guitarist Jerry Chamberlain, drummer Ed McTaggart, and then-new bassist Tim Chandler, all the energy and vitality of popular music in the early-Eighties was dropped onto vinyl, still smoldering with the occasional flame licking off of the edges.

In partnership, Stunt Records and Born Twice Records offer the two-disc collector’s edition of Doppelganger by Daniel Amos. Disc one presents the album as remembered, with remastered sonic clarity those who are familiar with it may not have experienced before. Disc two gives the listener era-adjacent live versions, demos, and DA-oriented ephemera, letting the listener into the process of how this remarkable album was made and how it was received. That is as much a part of the story as the music itself.

faceoffAs was mentioned at the outset, Doppelganger was a polarizing disc. Those who gravitated to it for its inventiveness, its authenticity, and its daring became lifelong fans. Those who were hoping DA would go back to their country-rock roots were put off by how dangerous, how weird, this new record was. Those who were taken aback by the overarching message the record carried as its theme — the double-minded man and the person we are when we’re being watched and wanted vs. the person we are when we’re not being seen — need only to look online. It is about the dominance of the ego; the duplicity of the Internet alter ego, and the digital monikers we hide our ad hominem attacks behind; and the realization that for all the wonders this world may bring, and all the beauty that grace and God allows, nothing seems to be better than pictures of ourselves, half-naked, in bathroom mirrors making pouty faces.

We are dead-eyed golem creatures carrying masks of humanity. You might have missed the message of Doppelganger before, but it is all around you now.

The Doppelganger Special Edition is now available from the DA Webstore: http://www.danielamos.com/store/doppelganger.html