Dan Melchior is a mighty man “of modest size,” who likely prefers to be on his own, on the fringes, rather than attached to any one expectation. In base terms, he was a Brit-cum–North Carolina hick bastardizing American music, be it buxom blues or de rigueur garage rock, like a poor man’s Billy Childish or a wealthy man’s Country Teasers. And then, when he got to playing solitaire, you could tell on those ol’ records that Melchior was merely twiddling his thumbs. Visionary Pangs furthers his excommunication from that guard, evoking a very personal, if always quotidian, expression of his inner auteur. The album rattles around in psychedelics, electronic buzz, and loner folk, uniquely stamped with a thick English accent impossible to shake. As das Menace, Melchior is responsible for every instrument (save a guitar solo and a drumbeat) and every utterance on Visionary Pangs. Much in the realm of Robert Pollard, Melchior has a prolific nature that seems to come in chunks; as a consequence this record has a cohesive and woozy exploration in and out of consciousness. The brash, junkbox thump of “Love Thug” and the Royal Trux on champagne synths of “Adjunct to Me” are punk spits, arriving and smashing bottles, but the record quickly falls to the couch with “Mary’s One and Two,” a self-cleansing Barrett-esque acoustic flutter intent on bringing the mood down a notch or three.
It’s not like Melchior hasn’t shown this flippant nature before, romanticizing the normal, everyday push and pull of dealing with mailmen, bank tellers, and bus drivers in a splatter of genres and configurations. It’s just that here that idiosyncrasy has been chiseled into a very cerebral, complex, and often fanciful recording. Proof of that evolution comes in “Intelligent Design 1 & 2,” Visionary Pangs’ side-ending, multi-part suites, which tend to question everything from love to faith, even hinting on the reason for Melchior’s own existence. Certainly the album isn’t conceptual or heavy as I or any other Melchior head might suppose, but peeling back the layers of Visionary Pangs is quite an exercise. Whether it be the Orwellian monologue of album closer “Psuedo-Blog Ed,” a treatise against rock criticism that’s as funny as it is deadly serious, or the blown-out monolith of “This Fetid Day,” it’s a stunning mix of sonics and semantics if you peek underneath. Newbies may be taken aback by Melchior’s variety show on Visonary Pangs. It’s a psychedelic record by a guy that can exhale Bevis Frond and Bassholes in equal breaths. He’s a guy who can get away with poesy on “I Got Lost,” wherein Melchior talks of the winter sky as a “fragile shell, heavy with ghosts,” and speak it bluntly in a packed dive bar before ripping into “Black Dog Barking,” a tale about going to the river, going to the crossroads, smirking all the way, and blowing up cliches.
Kevin J. Elliott