Abe is an alternative rock/lo fi artist hailing from San Antonio, Texas. Not much biographical information is available, suggesting Abe wishes to let the music do the talking. He’s something of a one man army, performing and recording all the instruments as well as the vocals in his home studio and mixing it himself also. His music is decidedly in the alternative rock genre and you can detect influences such as early Nirvana, The Stooges, early White Stripes, The Libertines, The Pixies, The Black Keys and Mudhoney, amongst others.
This album, Daydreamer, is his debut and consists of thirteen tracks. It starts out with Love Maker, which showcases his slightly ramshackle, lo-fi charm to great effect. Starting with a wiry guitar riff, the drums enter with the vocals. Abe has a raw, distinctive voice with shades of Kurt Cobain and it suits the material perfectly. His musicianship has a similar raw edge, giving his music an intense, fiery energy which is magnified by playing all the instruments himself.
Love Maker is a rollercoaster ride of a song with sections in 4/4 and a punk rock 2/4 section, colliding guitar riffs and a manic vocal performance. It keeps you captivated as you never know what is coming next and gets the album off to a fine start.
Even better is Not My Problem which begins with a simple but effective Kim Deal-style bassline before breaking out into a ragged blues rock song that surges with energy and musical momentum. The jagged, diamond cutter guitar riffs augment Abe’s impassioned vocals and there’s a Cobain-esque dark beauty to lines like, “I’ve seen the sun from the end of a gun….”.
Butterfly Woman has a 70’s rock feel with a strutting riff, though the flanged guitar sound takes it to a whole other world sonically. Like The Pixies, Abe takes traditional rock and turns it on its head, a neat trick. Hard Rock Candy has a laid back feel akin to a band like Free but he intersperses the traditional elements with unexpected changes and angular guitar lines that almost sound like they’re from another song.
Anymore performs a brilliant yin/yang balancing act between melody and dissonance, an art form that a band like Sonic Youth mastered. The dynamics between the contrasting sections are very effective, something understood by Nirvana and The Pixies. Sixth song Disillusion is excellent, a White Stripes-style garage band rocker that has an immediacy and instant impact. It could become a track that opens doors for his career and is a real album highlight.
The five minute I’d Be Lying is based on a choppy, funky guitar chord progression and the main lyrical hook is as quirky and opaque as the music: “Would you love me if I killed you with a gun I made with my life?”. It has an alternative anthem feel that brought to mind Beck’s classic Loser.
Serpentine begins with a backwards sprawl before launching into an angst ridden epic that recalls In Utero-era Nirvana with its serrated-edge guitars and the anguished howling refrain, “Sun goes down…”. Ninth track How Long is a distinct contrast, a slow brooding song built around a haunting guitar motif for the most part before exploding into life towards the end.
Four In One is one of the only tracks that didn’t quite work for me, with the angular dissonance not balanced by the usual strong melodies, but this is rectified by the sorrowful and beautiful seven minute epic Fortune. Built around gentle drums and softly strummed acoustic guitar, it’s decorated with finely crafted Radiohead-like lead guitar. The way the music grows and gathers momentum shows a real sense of order amongst the moments of chaos.
Next up is the album’s title track and it’s another seven minute tour de force, this one bringing back to Stooges style wah-drenched electric guitar and features his finest playing on the album. Lyrically, it’s certainly succinct, consisting of one line: “Daydreamer, my mind is gone…”. In short, it rocks.
The album closes with Take My Hand and it encapsulates the pleasing blend of the brash and the beautiful that Abe nails throughout this exhilarating hour of music. The focused yet meandering guitar lines made me think of Neil Young’s solos in his Crazy Horse era and there’s something genuinely touching about the final refrain, “Take my hand wherever you go….”.
Overall, this is the most original alternative rock album I’ve come across this year. Abe has developed a unique, left of field approach to music making that applies to both the songwriting and performance/production. Like Kurt Cobain, he understands the potency of combining contrasts and has created an album that deserves to be recognized as an important piece of alternative art. Don’t let this gem go under the radar.
VERDICT: 9 out of 10