Craig Dawson – The Malfunction Room
CD review by Tony Smith – TN442-7 – $15
A few aspects of Craig Dawson’s original songs are immediately apparent.
The first is that Dawson has a very good eye for hot issues.
The second is that although this album was compiled last century (!), the lyrics are still very relevant.
The third is that Dawson is a fine guitarist and singer and gives voice to these 12 songs and two tunes (‘Pickin’ on the Captain’ and ‘Pickin’ on Rylan’) in a way that presents them at their best.
Songs include ‘Darlinghurst Road’, ‘Suits and Ties’, ‘Rachel on a Carousel’, ‘Melinda’, ‘Girl on the Street’, ‘The Bridge’, ‘Two Wheels’, ‘Reconciliation’, ‘The Waterfall’, The Reunion’, ‘Darryl Made It Through Another Day’ and ‘Travelling On’.
Dawson gives special thanks to Divided By Three, Vanessa Purcell (recorder, vocals), Nicole Avery (cello), Glenn Skuthorpe (lead guitar), Jenny Donald (violin), Anthony Frost (keyboard), Col Wright, Rylan, Shelly and Karin Dawson, Graham Wilson (vocals), The Council for Unsavoury Activities and Canberra’s Merry Muse Folk Club.
The album was mastered, recorded and mixed in a few places, notably in Newcastle and Canberra.
It was ‘produced by whoever was present at the time’.
It is difficult to pick the best of the songs but the political ones seem sharpest.
‘Darlinghurst Road’ laments the despair evident in the back streets of Sydney where the shattered lives and broken dreams of men lie in the shards of bottles.
‘Suits and Ties’ has a great chorus: ‘they close down our railways/ our banks, our schools and our towns/ but they’ll never, no they’ll never/ shut our unions down’.
Another song which criticises the men who hold power is ‘Reconciliation’: ‘we can tear down the walls/ and make a new start/ the institutions they built/ to keep us apart …. There’ll be no more lies/ in a school history book/ of the white man’s invasion/ and the land that they took …. There is hope for our children/ down this road we will lead’.
‘Two Wheels’ is another fine song about a wanderer who had to, or wanted to, keep moving from job to job and home to home: ‘I spent most of my life on a 500 cc’.
While ‘malfunction’ implies something is not working, this album by Craig Dawson works very well indeed.
The arrangements are excellent and the lyrics powerful.
It would be nice to think that some of the issues of concern to Dawson in 1999 might have been resolved, but he made a powerful contribution to inspiring listeners to think about them then and they serve the same important purpose today.