The Equal Ground
You may remember Dennis Young from the ‘80s band Liquid Liquid fame. With his solo effort Shadow, it appears he wants to convey the idea that all you really need to make music is your voice and an acoustic guitar. Originally released in 2006, Shadow has been stripped down, so there are no drums, bass, or other supporting instruments to be found. Dennis Young has a strong, almost eerie voice that wafts over an assortment of strummed chords. What seems like it may be a boring and unsubstantiated sound actually brings a sort of familiar comfort, as the album harkens back to simpler days when computer programming didn’t exist.
Further, the lack of background instrumentation leaves your mind open to truly devour the lyrics, which here are full of stories of life and struggle, and are all easily relatable. You’ll find themes of love, loss, confusion and a higher pull to respect our elders, amongst other ideas. For a good example of the album’s overall direction, listen to title song “Shadow,” which is also one of the more exciting and gnarly songs on the album.
There are many different moods present on the album, too, all running parallel to the heavier themes introduced. For example, “Beautiful Dream” is a happier, more wistful song with higher vocals, and stands out as one of the more catchy songs. A little later, however, you’re treated to “Make It Clear,” a decidedly darker and heavier song with corresponding deep chords and a lower tone of voice.
You’ll also note that the songs are mostly shorter in length, ranging from roughly 2½ to 3 minutes. This seems to be an effective length, keeping each song interesting while being just long enough to feel satisfied with the beginning and end.
Overall, it was a nice change to listen to music in which the vocals and instruments didn’t need to compete for ear space, and where the stories could carry me though the entire album. It’s the perfect length, and the vocals are both soothing and powerful, which has made for an all-around solid folk album. Having heard the vocals and acoustic guitar portion, I now want to hear his other work and the original album as a point of reference; it will be interesting to see how music that stands so well alone can meld with other sounds.
The review is from Pitchfork Magazine May 2010
Given that their complete catalog can fit on a single CD, and that the vast majority of said catalog was initially released almost 30 years ago, it's hard to believe a band like Liquid Liquid can fly across the ocean and draw a crowd as large as the one that saw them on the ATP stage tonight. Of course, their music is well suited for the midnight shift at an indie rock-heavy festival, by which time people have been listening to dudes with guitars for several hours. It felt like a release and people were grateful for it. Indeed, Liquid Liquid didn't even have a six-string onstage-- aside from the prominent bass and Salvatore Principato's shouts, chants, and assorted vocalizations, all other sound came from percussion.
At first, something seemed off and I thought maybe they were having some timing problems, but after a few minutes I realized it was actually a matter of feeling out their unusual groove. They've got the congas and timbales and woodblocks but Liquid Liquid are not an Afro-Cuban jam band; they've got their own approach to rhythm, one with a bit of new-wavey stop/start jerkiness in its swing, and it took a minute to tune in. The crowd increased as the show went on and by the end it was a giant dance party, which one assumes is what Liquid Liquid have been shooting for from the beginning. --Mark Richardson
Old Dog: New Tricks (Day and Nite Music)
By Sebastian Chan
There’s a tendency in pop music to think short term.
And under this thinking it is difficult to conceive that Dennis
Young could still be making music. Drummer/percussionist for
the seminal late 70s/early 80s New York punk-funk band Liquid
Liquid, who were part of the whole No-Wave scene back then
alongside Glenn Branca, ESG, Bush Tetras, Dennis Young and
Liquid Liquid are both still, clearly, making music. Indeed,
on this latest album, Liquid Liquid singer Sal Principato
guests on several tracks along with the guitar of David Axelrod,
both riding Young’s super funky percussion - Latin and
African polyrhythms at the fore. Of course, punk funk is back
in vogue – the initial signs of a revival came a few
years ago first with MoWax reissuing Liquid Liquid’s
self-titled mini album featuring the famous Cavern, the track
whose bassline was sampled for White Lines and subsequently
bankrupted both the 99 label and Suagrhill. More recently
there have been a plethora of no-wave compilations bringing
to the surface many lost gems, as well as the new no-wave
of !!!, the DFA stable and others. Young’s solo release
then is well timed and for the most part keeps pace with these
young pretenders, although most of the punk urgency is gone,
replaced by a quite lovely languid groove. Apparently there’s
a new Liquid Liquid album in the wings as well.
Old Dog: New Tricks (Day and Nite Music)
A few things you should know about Dennis Young before we
begin: his primary interests are jazz and world music; he
favours the marimba for percussion and employs an exotic instrument
known as the ‘electric bowed banjolin’. Oh, one
more thing, his day job is percussionist with New York City’s
Liquid Liquid - their dance hit ‘Cavern’ was pilfered
by Grandmaster Flash for the impeccable ’White Lines’.
That got your attention didn’t it? As a title, ‘Old
Dog: New Tricks’ reflects Young’s long career
(nine solo albums, and countless Liquid Liquid outings), and
while there’s nothing here as relentlessly adrenalising
as ‘White Lines’, the tricks are still mightily
impressive. In delivery Young recalls Tindersticks’
Stuart Staples, while in outlook he could teach Peter Gabriel
a few of those tricks. Like Gabriel, Young uses world music
as both a backdrop and a springboard for his own ideas, so
when the drone of a Middle Eastern soukh appears in the middle
of the simultaneously frantic and relaxed ‘Beautiful
Dream’ it is as welcome and as natural as the rise of
the sun. Elsewhere, shades of David Sylvian, The Creatures
and Pat Metheny emerge, and very welcome they are too.
Review from Wire Magazine April 2004
Old Dog: New Tricks (independent)
NYC's arty groove-punks Liquid Liquid (no-wavers whose '83
tune "Cavern" was cannibalized by Grandmaster Flash
for "White Lines") paraded the worldly percussion
work of Dennis Young, a master of all things that go ping,
pop, clank and thump. His current solo album seems a reasonable
extension of what LL were up to - mellower and more pensive
but a rhythm junkie's delight nontheless, produced to sound,
ahem, cavernous. Proper jazz excursions and global pop in
a Peter Gabriel vein (minus the gravitas) share space with
more indefinable efforts, stuff that might compare to what
the Clash were up to with Combat Rock's "Sean Flynn."
LL singer Sal Principato pops in to handle vox on the exceptional,
dark and danceable "Signal Up Ahead." 8/10