James M. Russell
An album flowing through stories, philosophies, ruminations. . .
The respect that goes to independent artists is, knowingly, minimal. To support an independent artist is like being a martyr; you only get death in return. So the investments that run through music labels are no surprise in their ingratitude toward indie artists; they’re only signed if the market has proven them to be so. There isn’t an examination of potential, as we allow, of course, to our children in education. We’re a bunch of Social Darwinists in real life. Children are prepared to trample and be denied their gorgeous talents, and the music business should not hold this fate for the innovator in theorizing innocence, John Dyer. His third album, “gostayplay,” is remarkable.
I found myself yesterday in a restaurant near my home. I brought a long Dyer's lyrics for this CD with me, and the sounds still in my head from playing it before. The music stayed with me, and, without the music, I thought I was reading an avant-garde book of poetry or philosophy. With the music, of course, the flaws and depths of exploration were evident. I can't live with the early work; I envy his talent of convergence with his later work. But at lunch, sitting with two friends, the music over us played a song my friend said she "loved" - I heard it all right but was building to be infuriated, midway through the clichéd song. It sounded like Dyer should be playing on there, with his eventual classic "airtime", and also the first track on "gostayplay." I lost myself in my own thoughts that for a moment the Black Eyed Peas above me were Dyer.
"gostayplay" is Dyer's vault. Some of the songs, the early ones, are more experimental than his later solid pieces. He was a young artist then, still trying to make his way. He struggles in his music. His great thing is his ruminations, like on nature in his "Moving Fast" from 1993, written in Texas. The song plays like a philosophy, a sort of literary transcendentalism . . . but Dyer's not admitting that he, unlike Ralph Waldo Emerson, is a transparent eyeball. He's not old enough to really, let's say 'know' like his superiors. When I think of a young Dyer, I think about Dylan, controlled. I don't feel uncomfortable about listening to his music, expecting a yell in the middle of some popular homage, his "Nick". He's not a playboy like Dylan. So true to his innocent heart, Dyer's work wants you to embrace this soulful work.
Everything is for someone on "gostayplay." If it's not specifically dedicated like "Nick," for Nick Drake, a friend and artist who passed on, and beautiful homage to brotherly love, then he calls for something universal in his pieces. Each homage, if not to love, is a dedication to the world. To our thoughts. Dyer is the classic artist in this sense: he portrays the world in this mass chaos that, indeed it is. Like in “Nick” he calls for a general force among denizens of earth. Dyer wants a unity, and Dyer believes there is a unity if we simply believe in love. His philosophy moves in the most open pieces on love, one, “Ocean of You,” ‘for Nancy’, a troubling piece that reflects on his time in a young crisis from 1997. He doesn’t make a spectacular metaphor, because Dyer is a realist. But don't forget the unnoticed, nevertheless, the simple people who can unite a small community or who complete you, like a parent, sibling, lover. Dyer's major statement is on Nick's "thin skin" - it was his death. It asks you the question: do the innocent make it in the long run?
Dyer’s predecessor, Bob Dylan is knowingly thick skinned, a behemoth. "Tambourine Man" was his oft-played accomplishment, a symbolic ode to Dylan’s self-conscious time. How could Dylan not want to preach an anti-war message after all, as a chosen artist, a college drop-out, with the Vietnam War not successful? Folk-rock was the uniting music then, but music so symbolic that people couldn’t be moved. It was Dylan’s masturbatory quality. Though Dylan can last ages, Dyer too will last ages after this album. Neither debunks the other, but their similarities are karma. The rockstar quality applied to Dylan is not applied to Dyer. I'll hear Dylan played and read and documented, but the life of the two is no different. If "go stay play," the title song that closes the album, opens a new dimension for a freedom, allowing for every man for himself, yet each man for each other. Why do we know about this?
Had Dyer blamed someone for something, people would care. But instead his innocence is allowed to go without any sort of reverence. To be young is to not be wise, nor does to have an opinion make a man any more smarter. Dyer’s closest rumination on the bad of the world is the confusion he holds, which, like Dylan as an activist, is Dyer as a comforter. A CD of anthems, odes, and moments of expression he sees daily, “gostayplay” carries symbolism to a dimension many people don’t think about: naivety.
His art is his cover art, his words, his arrangements, his instruments; Dyer's made this calling his life. But what do we neglect? Dyer's not on any sort of subjected playlist on a mega corporation’s radio station that artists of this same spectacular caliber are neglected for those who rot their teeth with their fame. The trend for corporate radio is lacking in nourishment, substituted for entertainment: a playlist of the same artists, not ever room for the type who are emerging, only for the emerging who giant labels wish to have on the radio. Such a capitalistic stance is only blackening the hearts of minds of people who merely want to make music. We can't let America's evolutionary downfalls, like monopolistic corporations and lacking in innovation of tradition, sacrifice those who are truly called to their art. I don't want to meet Dyer working in a check out line at Wal-Mart one day.