Nathan Caswell, |
Thunder Bay, Ontario, native Nathan Caswell started his performing career as a musical comedian, touring North American in 2000-01 with his one-man show, Sucking Chest Wound (and other love songs). Since then, his songs have evolved beyond comedy to include the more complex themes that resonate through Einstein's Brain, which features six-and-a-half original songs of love, adventure, science and heartache. His is unselfconscious intelligent songwriting that also has a sense of humour, and it provides an interesting alternative to the piles of unoriginal compact discs floating around out there in music land.
Joining Caswell for this quirky journey are co-producer Trevor Mills (electric bass guitar, mason jar), Peter Boyd (electric slide guitar), Joe Phillips (acoustic double bass), Matthew "Animal" Pearson (drum kit), Linda Saslove (harmony vocals), Ken Cade (organ), Curly Boy Stubbs (acoustic guitar fills), and Brent Titcomb (suitcase and cardboard box). This impressive cast of characters works together well and adds appealing flourishes to Caswell's thoughtful and often playful lyrics.
The title track is the story of a road trip to Vegas with Einstein's brain in a mason jar on the front seat of a stolen Toyota. The brain is pensive, falls in love and has a cellphone with a belt clip (to make him look more important). It is easy to dismiss songs like this because they're funny, but Caswell's way with words stands the test of repeated listening. Saslove's harmony vocal and Boyd's guitar stand out on "Missing You," a love song full of Canadian imagery of highways, open spaces and long drives. "Time Flies" is a contemplative song of loss and inevitability, accompanied by Phillips' beautiful and melancholy acoustic bass.
"Pierre Trudeau (I Have the Technology)," a joyful tale of the possibilities of cloning, continues to surprise me with its intelligence and imagery. From former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to Matlock to Imelda Marcos and her 1,600 pairs of pumps, Caswell has plans for them all.
As an avid watcher of MacGyver for many years, I smiled when I heard "Not a Song," which despairs: "Richard Dean Anderson, where are you now? It's been all downhill since MacGyver for you. You've left us with pen knives and chewing gum wrappers." Perhaps it is not a song for the radio -- but I wish it was. "This Town" is a bittersweet love song that brings heartbreak and loneliness into a real place with broken radios, bubble gum pop music and karaoke bars.
As a bonus at the end of the record, Caswell has included an open letter to someone we have all met at one time or another: "the guy who sat in the seat behind me and ate hard candy from a crackling cellophane bag for the duration of the first act of that fancy Broadway show ... you are inconsiderate."
Throughout Einstein's Brain, Caswell's lyrics are smart, interesting and original. He has a keen observational sense and is one of the most original young songwriting voices out there today.