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Joker’s Daughter – The Last Laugh

"The Last Laugh"

Joker’s Daughter – The Last Laugh
18 June 2009, 11:00 Written by Steve Lampiris
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jokersdaughter_albumBrian Burton should take a break. No one person can possibly have this much genius in them and not explode at some point. The man better known as Danger Mouse is back with his latest project, Joker’s Daughter, in which he’s paired with psych-folkie Helena Costas. Its debut, The Last Laugh, is six years in the making: Costas would send demos to Mouse and he’d do his thing by adding whatever the hell he’d think of first, last or somewhere in between. It might’ve been all three.It’s clear from the outset that Danger Mouse is here purely as an augmentation. Really, that’s always been his job ”“ and his specialty ”“ as a producer. On The Last Laugh, he’s a collaborator to be sure, but he’s still in the background. His synths and sound effects swirl and weave their way around the listener’s head but they’re never intrusive. The noise (as it were) is there purely to make Helena Costas’ songs spacier. Her songwriting and here voice are out there enough on their own, certainly, but here DM is her third (or maybe fourth) eye. Much like any good music fan, he’s a completist; he wants this collection of songs to be perfect. She, on the other hand, is content with just strumming and singing, humming or wailing, the perfect take be damned. It would be reasonable, then, to conclude that this duo exists solely for the sake of some bizarre post-modern polemic existentialism. But, no, it isn’t that simple ”“ or complicated, as the case may be. This is simply the sound of two seemingly opposing forces joining hands and jumping off into the great unknown. And landing on their feet, sticking the landing.Which is why this album is so odd: Mouse is not known for his subtlety. One listen to Gnarls Barkley or The Grey Album clearly displays this fact. But for most of Laugh, he goes from being the center of attention ”“ the class clown, as it were ”“ to being the shy kid in the back who knows all the answers but never bothers to raise his hand. Case in point, ‘JD Folk Blues’ is a simple, bouncy acoustic number but Mouse’s trademark background noise is there in the form of a barely-there organ in the first half of the song. Street-cred indie rocker ‘The Bull Bites Back’ also features his signature racket (no, there isn’t a better word) buried beneath the effervescent surface. But all of this doesn’t mean that Mouse isn’t ever at the forefront. ‘Cake and July’ is clearly a track that Mouse had more input on that most, as his fingerprints run rampant: a cathartic string arrangement washes over the gentle, wistful ballad but never overpowers it. ‘Nothing Is Ever What It Seems,’ another slow-burning contemplation, also features beautiful arrangements interlaced within the track. While the strings were arranged by Daniele Luppi, it’s obvious that it was Mouse’s idea. I’ve spoken about orchestration before ”“ here, it’s actually done right. The strings carry the songs instead of opposing it.The Last Laugh is an album that shouldn’t exist because Joker’s Daughter is a entity that shouldn’t work. But some how, some way, it does. This mystery would be pretty goddamn frustrating if not for the fact that Laugh is such a worthwhile record. Maybe Helena Costas is just that interesting. Maybe Brian Burton is just that good. 89%Joker's Daughter on Myspace
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