“I’m obsessed with failure,” says Brian Dunne. “It’s so much more interesting to me than success, so much more honest and human.”
Truth be told, we all feel like failures on some level, like frauds and freaks and fuckups just waiting to be found out. Enter: Loser On The Ropes, Dunne’s entrancing new album and debut release for the storied Kill Rock Stars label. Recorded in Athens, GA, with producer Drew Vandenberg (Faye Webster, Of Montreal), the collection explores defeat and denial, fortune and faith, shame and redemption, all set against the backdrop of a world run by blowhards and bullshitters who manage to perpetually skate by without cost or consequence. Dunne may be a singer/songwriter in the purely technical sense of the term, but he shares more in common on this album with the punks and new wave weirdos who turned up in lower Manhattan and the outer boroughs in the ’70s and ’80s, DIY misfits who came to crash the party and ended up building their own scene instead. That’s not to say Loser On The Ropes is a punk album—in fact, it might be the most beautiful and melodic record Dunne’s ever made—but rather that the songs are lean and gritty, sick of mincing words and insistent on cutting straight to the heart of things with a raw, understated poeticism. The arrangements are similarly unsettled, drifting in and out of focus as they glow with the after-hours sheen of a city street on a rainy night. While it would be easy to get lost in the darkness of it all, Loser On The Ropes instead emerges as something much more resilient and exhilarating, as a celebration of the down-and-out, of the punch-drunk fighter in each of us who heads back into the ring with a bloody nose and a crooked smile, hungry for another round because it sure as hell beats giving up.