08 Jan 2004 // A review by Kraven
It was a given that Daniel would turn up in Sydney with a surfboard. He hadn't seen a beach in a few years and we knew he was hanging out to get in the ocean.
The guitar was a surprise. He called her 'Daisy' and it turned out he'd bought her a few months earlier, before leaving New York. With some mumbled words about having only learnt a chord or two, that was the last we heard about the it.
We didn't see much of Daisy, it was a new relationship of a different kind for Daniel and he was keeping it pretty low key. Over the next few months you'd sometimes hear the sound of a guitar being strummed late into the night, but, when asked about what he was playing, it would always be "Oh nothing..."
Finally, one humid Bondi night with the sweet scent of frangipanni hanging in the air, and following a good meal with plenty of wine, Daniel had sufficient confidence to ask us if we minded him playing a few simple tunes. Understated, as always, we should've realized the gravity of what we were about to experience.
Inexplicably, you feel so much whilst seeing Daniel play. So much of his usually quiet, eccentric genius is revealed - a bold, and no doubt very difficult thing for him to do.
The first song he sang us was a wandering tale from New York, called 'Avenues.' The tune quietly blew us away and remains a personal favorite to this day. We all sat in silence, mouths agape, with no awareness of anything else, just our friend, each note, each raw emotion, each lyric - unambiguous yet ethereal prose that any one of us could relate to. Daniel blended his own torment and success together with a passionately overwhelming delivery.
Simple huh? Well, in believing that life is about simple pleasures, whether it be surfing or music, it became a regular thing. A meal would get cooked for a few friends, and Daniel - being broke - would play for his dinner. Our guests would sit back, mellowed out after eating, and enjoy the show. It was on these kind of nights, with everybody singing along to a chorus with smiles and laughs, that someone would notice a new guest silent, completely stunned, as we had once been ourselves. Everyone would fall apart laughing because we'd neglected to even mention Daniel was going to perform. Needless to say, the dinners grew larger and the sets got longer.
'Fine By Me' is an album that contains songs we heard come to light over a Sydney summer. It's one of those albums you can put on and not think about, yet you might find yourself realizing the myriad of different aspects to each track throughout the album's course.
It's a great late-night-after-party album [it's also really good to clean up the house to] for those who appreciate stripped-down singer/songwriter stuff - hooky in a weird way, with great little stories that pull you in slowly until you know all the words. They’re lyrically intense personal political tracks like 'Fine By Me', the sad harmonica-inflected 'Radio songs,' or upbeat love and lost-love songs like 'Daisy' and 'When I Was A Schoolboy.' They're silly, humorous songs like 'Jetwash,' and then there's a song like 'Fireescapes' which seems to read as a straight-up confession of Daniel being scared to step-up and play his songs to people - to be himself - his fear taunting him through the chorus.
The album as a whole reads like a flat-out representation of Daniel facing exactly that fear. He made it for the people encouraging him and freely admits that playing "a few simple tunes" that fateful night was the best thing anyone could have done for him. It's a privilege to have witnessed the start of what is proving to be a humble and prodigious musical journey. His freedom in expressing what all of us are afraid to say is both refreshing and compelling.
On a final note, it should be added that one the quirky and coolest things about 'FINE BY ME' is that you really feel like he's somewhere in the room, strumming away a bunch of songs for you. Then, finally, as the album draws to a close, he yawns and says "Goodnight," and you go off to sleepyland 'with a crash and a boom....'