Daniel Cage’s debut solo album sounds calculated to appeal to those prematurely approaching middle age. Co-produced by Kevin Killen (with Cage and Phil Nicolo), who has worked with U2 and Peter Gabriel, it has some of the production sparkle of their better albums but none of the invention that Gabriel especially is capable of.
The music is a combination of horror movie keyboards and chord progressions you’ve already heard over and over again if you’ve been listening to pop music for even a few years. And you will hear them more than once on this album, along with impressively played but meaningless guitar effects going deedle-dee, and machinelike, but acoustic drumming.
Cage says he brought so many hands on board (the album was also mixed by Joseph Puig and the ubiquitous-in-’80s-rock Bob Clearmountain) because he wanted to insure the record wasn’t “myopic.” But what he has done is to allow others to paint over his glasses, going so far as to lose his vision, or at best subsume it to others’ instincts.
I would be curious to hear “stripped-down” version of some of the songs, though. The album makes them seem like potentially interesting house guests that have been dressed up and gone out of their way to make a good impression, and in so doing have masked everything that might make them interesting in the first place. Funnily enough, this Daniel is not in a lion’s den but in a cage of rock expectations. I believe he has some good things to say, but they won’t be heard until he can push them above the crowd.
And the shame of it is, buried under all of this is a talented lyricist. Musically, it’s been done, but Cage shows real skill with words. I mean he’s no Elvis Costello or anything (but who among us is?), but like flowers plucked, cut, and put in water where they’re presentable but will surely die, these songs are unlikely to live long once the CD has stopped, with only the rare exception (“You Set Me Free” being one).
If and when Napster takes over the world, albums like this will be exhibit A in the case for what the big record companies did to music.