Right from the start, The Damnwells is nothing one would expect out of a bunch of Brooklyn boys who recorded their tunes out of a house and a storage locker. Such low-rent, DIY tactics tend to be the sole property of NYC’s punk and mix-tape specialists. Yet, from the first note of Bastards of the Beat, The Damnwells dispels the notion that soulful, organic roots rock requires a seasoned engineer and expensive studio time.
By way of comparison, The Damnwells’ sound sways from the fragile, sing-song balladry of the Gin Blossoms (“Kiss Catastrophe”) to the ethereal, haunting vibe of Wilco (“I Will Keep The Bad Things From You”). From song to song, the group maintains a fairly consistent atmosphere while deviating only slightly to illustrate the different sides of its personality.
What’s most challenging about qualifying a work like Bastards of the Beat is separating The Damnwells’ proclivity for the sentimental from the tendency of some hard rock bands to emasculate their sound for commercial acceptance. By no means should The Damnwells be lumped in with the scared and pathetic ilk of the watered down. Rather, the band plays it like it is, without apology or pretense.
In fact, The Damnwells’ debut tends to exhibit the same characteristics that have enabled artists like Tom Petty and Bob Dylan to gain respect. Again, in today’s over-indulged music ‘business’, it’s next to impossible to evaluate a work like this in a vacuum. But to the extent that one can, the results certainly won’t disappoint.