Album Review :
Destroy Nate Allen - Perfect Recipe for a Smile

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Artist: Destroy Nate Allen
Albums: Perfect Recipe for a Smile & Don’t Let This Smile Fool You
Label: None
Release Date: 2009
Reviewer: Eric Pettersson

Tracklisting:

  1. Anchors Away
  2. Turns Out You’re Perfect for Me
  3. Recipe
  4. Loving You
  5. White Flag
  6. His Lips Are Sealed Hallelujah
  7. Despite It All
  8. Steady
  9. I Am Alive
  10. Smile
  11. Phil Collins
  12. Don’t Let This Smile Fool You
  13. 35, 35, 35
  14. Guitar Strings
  15. Glow in the Dark
  16. How to Make a Girl Cry
  17. Grandpa
  18. Ain’t Gonna Rain No More
  19. Suffer
  20. Pardon Song

Whew! That’s a lot of tracks. But, it’s because this is actually two albums on one disc. The first ten tracks are Perfect Recipe for a Smile, a new LP from Destroy Nate Allen, which has recently become a duo by the inclusion of Nate’s wife Tessa. The latter ten tracks are then a solo album from Nate Allen called Don’t Let This Smile Fool You. Nate says he wrote the second album in a few days, and it shows. These songs are short and silly, most of them romantic love songs that would be great if he sang them to his wife at home, but they have no place in a professional music setting. Since I am so disappointed by the quality of these songs and their lack of critical substance, my review will focus entirely on Perfect Recipe for a Smile. The disc is priced like a single album, so we can treat Don’t Let This Smile Fool You like added bonus material at the end of the real album and still have a fair evaluation.

The last I heard Destroy Nate Allen, it was 2006’s Awake O’ Sleeper. In my review of that album, I recommended Nate focus on the softer songs that seemed to have a lot of potential. At the same time, a certain Christian music mag told him he should focus on the fun and fast songs and get rid of the others. Apparently Nate chose to follow their advice over mine, with mixed results.

Perfect Recipe for a Smile captures a sound that is clearly meant for a fun and interactive live show. Translated to the studio, some songs like “Recipe” lose their fun and feel awkward, but others like “Loving You” are filled with great folk-punk energy and strong back-and-forth between the two singers. “White Flag” is somewhat slower, but the rawness is in full force. Nate’s voice is scratchy and end-of-the-show rough, like someone switched out his water bottle with straight whiskey. This works so well to his advantage that I wish it would have happened on more tracks. It really brings out the punk roots of this acoustic act.

The trend here is that the edgier punk-influenced songs have a rawness and energy not usually found in an acoustic act these days, and it brings the obvious comparison to Violent Femmes. However, while some may prefer clean love songs for the wife to catchy tunes about drugs and masturbation, listening to this album only makes me want to take it right back out and jam to “Blister in the Sun” instead. Destroy Nate Allen gets points for reminding me of a sweet band, but they lose those points for not offering anything of competitive value.

This is not to say that Destroy Nate Allen has no value. There’s good potential here, but on Perfect Recipe for a Smile, I feel like I’m listening to someone trying to recreate a live show in the studio. It reflects what must be a fun and enjoyable concert, but it fails as a recorded album. Most of the time, this could have been fixed with the simple addition of drums and maybe a bass instead of just the two voice and acoustic guitars. Fleshing out the songs with more instruments is definitely the way to go on future albums for Destroy Nate Allen. And while fun songs are seemingly a staple of their live show, they need to find a new way to work them on the record. Songs like “Turns Out You’re Perfect for Me” and “Steady” are so performance driven that they should probably only be played live. This is where Nate could return to those slower and softer songs I liked on Awake O’ Sleeper to flesh out the disc with more quality material.

Overall: Destroy Nate Allen frustrates me. They show a ton of potential on this album, but it is only fully realized on “Loving You” and “White Flag.” Yet when they hit it on these tracks, their acoustic sound rocks as hard as any punk band. In the future they should save the interactive songs for the live show and spend more recording time on the thoughtful and brooding jams.

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