Free Download: A Typically Entertaining Dan Bryk Show from 2009
Today’s free download is a fantastic live album. Dan Bryk’s Live at Bread & Circus Toronto is a solo performance from around 2009. Bryk’s unaffectedly clear voice soars and whispers and his piano playing is solid, but ultimately it’s the songs that knock you out. When it comes to purist pop tunesmithing, this guy is unsurpassed: Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann and Ward White could pick up a trick or two from him. Bryk’s 2009 record Pop Psychology, a corrosive concept album about the music business and people dumb enough to get involved in it, is a genuine classic. This one is more lighthearted, but it’ll give you a good idea of what this guy is all about: sardonic, self-effacing, unable to resist a good pun or a good joke, and a great storyteller. This is obviously a room recording, with sonics on the boomy side and plenty of crowd noise – Bryk takes a pause or two to get them to shut up, then gently assails one particularly chatty group. But by the encore he’s won everybody over, all the girls singing along with the chorus on Discount Store, a wickedly catchy, understatedly biting song that perfectly captures the cruel ironies of the current depression.
“If misery loves company, where the fuck did everybody go?” he asks with his first song; at the end of the set, the crowd wants a happy one, so he gives them the self-explanatory Just Give Up. The version of She Just Wants to Get High rhymes “Regent Park”(a Toronto slum) with “Maker’s Mark,” its harried narrator trying to save a girl from herself as much as from the cops: “Officer, I don’t have the money for this kind of weed.” He serves up a bouncy tribute to chunky girls – Bryk is a big guy himself – and then to a video game programmer he idolized as a teenager, imagining him living it up in California, “doing lines off the sand.” The punchline, where the programmer calls and leaves Bryk a message, is too good to give away. The strongest song here is The Next Best Thing, one of only two tracks from Pop Psychology to make it onto this one, and it packs a wallop. It’s as self-critical as it is angry at execs who won’t go near artists who aren’t “cute and quirky and complacent:”
They wonder why I get so nervous
Airing my laundry to the weak and curious
I know it’s really not a public service
Supplying the freakshow to the circus
When you download this, you’ll see that Pop Psychology and Bryk’s 2007 Discount Store ep are still available, both hints worth picking up on.