Tom Daily used to be Tom Counihan, who used to be in Not Rebecca, who used to sound like Face to Face. Anyway, Tom Daily’s got a solo record now, which doesn’t sound like Face to Face, but rather isn’t far off from what the Crabs record nowadays. This is a good thing.
Not Rebecca were pretty OK. Nothing spectacular but nothing worth ignoring, although most people did just that, as I never heard the band’s name dropped anywhere. The only Not Rebecca full-length, Rocketship to Canada, was a solid album, rarely straying from garden-variety melodic punk, but featuring not-so-average intelligent lyrics about everyday subjects such as girls and ‘80s Minnesota punk bands. The band was co-fronted by Dave Lyslen and Daily (known as Tom Counihan back then), and Daily, judging by his songs on Rocketship, was clearly the better songwriter.
Daily is doing his own thing now. His solo debut, Happily Deceiving Culture, sounds nothing like the punk of Not Rebecca but rather calls to mind K Records’ fuzz-pop, although it retains the smart, witty lyrics that made Not Rebecca’s debut so promising. Happily Deceiving Culture is incredibly short (clocking in at under half an hour) but long on great music, as each of its 11 songs is a fun, worthwhile listen.
There’s a ton going on throughout the record, but it still retains a 4-track feel. Everything from wind chimes to soft synth beats show up, but the pleasant noises are barely audible, giving Daily’s guitar-driven pop-rock a warm, lived-in sound. Daily plays all of the instruments and recorded the album himself, and his simple playing (even the pedestrian drumming which shows that Daily hasn’t hit the skins very often in his lifetime) allows his simple songs to hit harder than they would if backed by a full band. Happily Deceiving Culture doesn’t sound like a singer/songwriter project, but it allows Daily’s personality to shine like a great solo album should.
Daily’s incredibly witty, as his lyrics consistently attest. He’s constantly taking cliches and twisting them around to give his lines a bitter new meaning, such as on “Minneapolis,” with the clever “We could watch the seasons / Turn on each other.” He sounds miserable throughout the album (“She is the kind of girl who waits until her birthday’s through to tell you that she is leaving you”), but saves his most cynical lyrics for the most upbeat parts of his songs, and with the simple arrangements the irony is never too subtle to notice.
When I first heard Not Rebecca, I remember writing the band off as one of those acts that showed promise but ultimately wasn’t an essential listen. The band may no longer be around, but Tom Daily’s still recording, and his Happily Deceiving Culture is proof that Not Rebecca wasn’t just teasing with its potential. Daily’s gone solo and put together a fantastic debut, an album absolutely deserving of the notoriety that Not Rebecca never received.
// Notes from the Road
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