What Your Money Wants
ave Doobinin knows what he wants—and it’s got nothing to do with money. The former front man of NYC’s Skywriter is much more interested in making you feel. Though not quite as narrative-minded as Sleep Station’s David Debiak, Doobinin pours out tales of woe like red wine. Against producer/contributor Billy White’s sparse, sophisticated musical tapestries, Doobinin treads in Elliot Smith and Damon Gough territory.
Doobinin’s voice is naturally thin and intimate, but versatile enough to flatten out into something blunter and more substantial when a track calls for it. Bolstered by a warm, elastic bass line on “Radio”, Doobinin flaunts this range, opening the track whispering vulnerable nothings into the microphone as effortlessly as he later leads us in the chorus “I’m playing on the radio, all the time / Didn’t that blow your mind?” On “Black and White” Doobinin’s voice is distorted and warbling, sounding a lot like The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, while on the subtle, sparse “War Song”, we can’t help but think of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.
In other words, Doobinin is in mighty good company.
If we find any fault with What Your Money Wants, it’s that the musical backdrop seems, at times, too content to serve as Doobinin’s caddy. With a couple of notable exceptions, the instruments fail to overtly assert themselves. On “Cut Myself Shaving” a badass guitar riff tears through a shuffling drum texture and, on “Radio”, Doobinin’s vocal rides an elastic bass line to excellent effect. But overall, these are songs content to support Doobinin’s earnest, understated vocals.
Lyrically, Doobinin offers sometimes clichéd love, hope and peace messages, but he also manages to offer some sharp social criticism, too. On “Pour Me Champagne”, for example, Doobinin hangs his hat on chorus, “Pour me, champagne / More beauty, less brains”, while on the title track he assumes the point-of-view of obscene wealth in the lines “I live in a castle, all up here by myself / Throw stones at other castles, oh well well / I carry the sunset with me, I’m showing all my friends”.
The overall impression What Your Money Wants leaves is similar to that of Beth Orton’s Central Reservation. Both albums are the auditory equivalent of vast, open desert plains. There is a sense of desolation in the coupling of Doobinin’s voice and White’s instrumentation. Tension is built up and eroded away, each moment a moving grain of sand. In the end, we come away convinced that Doobinin is onto something. He may be traditional in his approach, but he renders that tradition his own via heartfelt lyrics and a wisely understated delivery.
Reviewed by: R. S. Ross
Reviewed on: 2004-09-23