I was never any good at math, but I know enough to understand the basic laws of rock-critic algebra, which clearly state that the quality of an album rises or falls in inverse proportion to the number of times a publicist has to beg writers to cover it. This is why I was surprised to discover, after receiving approximately three dozen e-mails and one unsolicited copy of The Gabe Dixon Band, that it does not suck.
It would be impossible to accurately convey my surprise at this discovery. To continue the math theme, it would be akin to learning that the square root of x cubed over y is orange. (An answer which, sadly, would have improved my high school test scores dramatically.) This calls into question the established order of the universe, as well as many of my assumptions about what leads publicists to repeatedly e-mail me about artists I clearly have no intention of covering. Maybe they, you know, really like the music or something.
Anyway, here’s the Gabe Dixon Band, which has apparently been a fixture on the granola-and-hacky sack circuit for some time, and is using its new deal with the recently revived Fantasy imprint as an excuse to harsh everyone’s mellow by applying a shiny coat of pop gloss to its formerly jam-friendly sound. (I believe this is known as “pulling an O.A.R.”) This rarely works to anyone’s advantage (just ask the members of O.A.R.), but damn if The Gabe Dixon Band doesn’t live up to most of the hype in all those e-mails I deleted.
This is perfectly pleasant piano pop, good for fans of the softer side of artists like Ben Folds or pre-’80 Elton John. I’m not suggesting that Dixon has the songwriting chops of either artist, but he does write better songs than most of the current crop of singer/songwriters. He has the advantage here of drawing on his back catalog to relaunch himself — standout track “All Will Be Well” (download) is at least a few years old — but what matters most is how the songs go down, and the answer, for the most part, is smooth and easy.
The album isn’t without a few bumps, most notably the noxious, Five for Fighting-esque “Baby Doll” — who calls their significant other “baby doll,” anyway? — but for fans of piano-driven pop, the positives will far outweigh the negatives. Sample more of the band’s wares on their MySpace page.
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The Gabe Dixon Band, “Till You’re Gone”