Picks and Pans Review: Brian Dewan Tells the Story

updated 02/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Brian Dewan

On this wonderfully eccentric debut album, Brooklyn-based Brian Dewan comes off sounding like a hybrid of Edgar Allan Poe and Burl Ives. His instrument of choice is an electric zither; his songs are macabre tales that unspool like silent movies, full of dark images and wry satire.

In soft, folkie songs devoid of violent language, Dewan evokes as much weirdness and suspense as any David Lynch production. "Let me tell you the dreadful story of how I poked out my eye," he begins in "My Eye," a musical ghost story that Dewan's deadpan humor keeps from becoming the downer one might expect. "Wastepaper Basket Fire" pokes fun at the way office life turns small events into major catastrophes ("Do not attempt to save/Expensive pieces of equipment/Try to keep a level head/Through all this excitement"). "The Letter" describes a chain letter with absurdly horrible consequences for those who break it.

Dewan's zither sounds like a cross between a harp and an electric rhythm guitar, and it often lends an old-world, medieval sound to his 13 modern fantasies. These are not simple, hummable pop tunes, and his songs require some attentive listening to reach the payoff. But it is time enjoy ably spent. The roar and thunder of so much modern rock and rap sounds tame in comparison with these well-told musical tales. (Bar/ None)

From Our Partners