Welcome To: The Weird Bits That Made Me, an expoloration of the idiosyncratic or obscure pop culture that I was into as a kid. I lived a strange suburban existence, with relatively young and somewhat hip parents and there were some real gems in the offbeat cultural stuff they exposed us to as kids. It hought it would be fun to once a week explore some of that.
There are certain moments when I remember how young my parents were when they married, settled and had the three of us. By the time my mother was my age she’d been with her life partner for twelve years, married for eight of those, and had three children.
So it becomes less weird when the musical touchstones of my childhood, beyond their teenage boomer staples, include stuff like Green Day, Blues Traveler, The Wallflowers.
But beyond even that, comes the fact that my parents were still heading to rock clubs and listening to bar bands well into my childhood. One time, after a trip to New York City’s The Bottom Line (now closed, but a favorite of my dad’s) they came back with a CD from a British, Indie Signed Singer Songwriter named Julian Dawson called Travel On.
We listened to this CD A LOT as kids. It was one of those that just stuck around in my mom’s car, and unlike a lot of the transitive stuff my dad picked up in his 30’s, was actually really good.
And then, when streaming came along, I made the decision to search Mr. Dawson (I still haven’t dove into his other work though I probably should, based on my adult tastes, I’d probably dig his shit). And today, we’re going to talk about the album, Travel On, which came out in 1995 and I listened to regularly probably until about 2003.
First things first, this ablum is super 90’s. It’s that odd combination of male yearning, 60’s nostalgia, daddy issues, and a vague social conscious, plus synths and acoustic guitars.
I forgot how deeply in my brain these songs were until I listened to them again, and how my favorites from when I was a kid are still the ones I prefer, despite getting most of them more. But were I to curate the album (which isn’t long) I’d probably still stick to the opening track, “Travel On,” the fun and propulsive, “Just Can’t Say No,” the 90’s-tastic depression ballad, “Sigh Heart, Don’t Break,” and the lovely parental loss song, “You’re Listening Now,” and the werido folk style story song, “Queen Of The Bayou.”
I’m less into the exhortation of shallow tourism as colonialism, “New Columbus” which includes the eye rolling insight, “Columbus has a credit card, he’s traded in his cross. The King and Queen of Nicotine still guarantee the profit and loss.” I’d liked this song as a kid because it is pretty catchy. Knowing a little bit more about how music works, it has a pretty fun guitar riff and some neat harmonica work. There are a few other songs that are very much about heartbreak and betrayal that I get more as an adult, but are also just, still not my thing.
Julian Dawson’s entire discography is on Spotify and while I don’t know if I can recommend this entire album, I would DEFINITELY say that I think people should at the very least listen to “You’re Listening Now,” which is the kind of raw and beautiful piano ballad that I will just never be able to resists. A sample of the lyrics:
I mean, dude, I am not made out of stone. That is some heartbreaking shit.
I was a little nervous to go back to this one, because it was SO odd, and also because I didn’t know if it would hold up at all, but it really did, and also is a bit of a Rosetta Stone into the kind of music I got into later. I’ve always been into this kind of lyric heavy acoustic pop-rock, and I think this album has some influence on that.
I’m hoping to get one of these done a week. I have a decent list of stuff that I’d like to talk about. It’s going to be fun.