A couple of weeks ago I put out two posts on just half of the remnants of Bolt Action Five, on Thursday I caught their former lead singer and his latest project Danimal Kingdom live for a single launch at the Queen of Hoxton. I’ve been aware of his very particular brand of Pop for quite awhile now, ever since we collaborated on a TATW project a year or so ago. And so I’ve had a real opportunity to watch his music grow and develop over time.
The original premise of Danimal Kingdom was of Dan Murtha making music on his own. His music and his songs. It’s a sound that wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t quite love at first sight. But it did stop me in my tracks, it had me listening again and again, right up until the moment I’d fallen for it all. He stood out, he was unlike anything I’d seen in a long time. This is 3 minute pop, there are no two which ways about it, but it’s good pop. Simple and catchy hooks, quirky lyrics, jumpy beats and synth sounds that make you want to dance (or at least shuffle), and a playful vocal style, yet at the same time multi-layered enough to keep it all fresh to the listener.
On stage it was different though, it was just him up there alone in the early days, which (for me) didn’t quite work. So concentrated on getting the music right that everything became too static up there, taking away from one of Dan’s greatest assets, his stage presence. Since then, he has built a strong band around him that help compliment his style and crucially free him up enough to bring a greater level of performance to his shows again. He is still very much at the centre of it all, but he’s now playing to the strengths of those around him and you can see a real chemistry between them on stage. Dan introducing his German bassist by telling us ‘even the hun can be fun’, and taking a swift kick up the backside, was a good highlight. But it’s his very natural charisma that allows him to pull something like this off, a charisma that endears him to the audience and helps to make him a very powerful frontman. He may not have a great voice, but a great voice most certainly does not make a great singer.
At their best Danimal Kingdom present us with a kind of perfect quirky Pop. You just can’t help but smile when they hit their groove. It may not be completely my kind of music, but somehow I’m always left feeling a surge of happiness after their gigs. His cover of Death From Above’s ‘Too Much Love’ is a great two minute shot in the arm. But it’s ‘Through the Ice’ (below) that’s the real stand out for me, the catchiness of guitarist James’ schreeching synth guitar sounds grabbing the audience from second one, playful lyrics, and most importantly Dan - now free from his guitar - stalking the stage and really starting to let loose. It’s something I want to see more of. Dan minus the guitar - unrestrained, letting go, breaking into the audience and taking hold of the stage. I can see him regaining some of that wilder side in performance that was so characteristic of his BA5 days. Saying that though, as his confidence as a guitarist grows, he’ll become much more able to let that side of him loose.
Pop at its best can be absolutely stunning, and this guy has the potential to produce it, as you tend to find his best songs buzzing around in your head soon enough. If you read this blog enough than you should know I’m a big fan of guitar led music, but I’m always open, always interested in a new sound. There are no meaty guitars here, this is Pop and I can see a lot of people turning off for that very reason, but you’d be fucking stupid to do so.