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Published: 2010/04/19
by Fady Khalil

Surprise Me Mr. Davis
That Man Eats Morning For Breakfast

Royal Potato Family

The five-day Blizzard of 2003 dropped approximately 28 inches of snow on the Boston area; it paralyzed traffic, damaged property and just made for a general mess of things. But, as it turned out, it would also facilitate the creation of the electro-folk outfit, Surprise Me Mr. Davis. And while waiting out the wintry carnage, stowed away in their apartment, Nathan Moore and The Slip’s Brad and Andrew Barr just thought they were recording tunes for the fun of it. But, nearly half a decade on, they still find themselves touring and releasing albums under the SMMD moniker, albeit sporadically. Their third release, That Man Eats Morning for Breakfast, could quite possibly prove the band’s break-through effort. And now, augmented by the piano wizardry of their most recently enlisted member, Marco Benevento, SMMD is a band undoubtedly on the move.

Who would have thought that adding an avant-rock trio to a folksinger and a virtuosic pianist would render a sound akin to the retro-revelry of Dr. Dog. But it’s precisely this playful vigor that proves one of the most compelling dimensions of Morning for Breakfast. On “Emily Green,” Nathan Moore’s xylophone backed ode-to-love effectively captures the syrupy goodness of The Beatles “Penny Lane.” He croons with marching confidence, “I’ve seen Emily Green and that changes everything, that changes me.” Proving to have an irresistibly nostalgic energy, singing along becomes largely obligatory. And “Roses in Bottles” also reaches for stratospheric highs, but this time through an uplifting ambience perfectly suited for Benevento’s melismatic charms. With choruses afloat in a sonic joy and uncomplicated ethos reminiscent of “Over It” (Dinosaur Jr.), this song, simply put, is a lot of fun.

But SMMD appears to be looking for more then just a ‘fun’ time. “Joelle” finds Nathan Moore’s voice aching with reflections on love lost in that most quintessential of folksinger ways. And the ambient guitar play throughout the track immediately conjures The Slip’s style of moody, slow burning rock. Further still, “Home Away From Home,” features Brad Barr and Nathan Moore – lead singers in their own rights – harmonizing throughout the ambling narrative on friendship and love. But neither entity ever competes for a central presence, opting instead to create textured focal points that find listener attention swaying back and forth as Moore and Barr come in and out of focus with eloquent timing. The sum total proves to be a uniquely new sound, a SMMD sound that’s shaped by all of its players, collectively, rather than any one of them alone.

The varied musical backgrounds of SMMD’s roster, in many ways, had pre-destined the creation of a multi-hued album. Likewise, though only a short seven-track EP, That Man Eats Morning for Breakfast takes many surprising turns in many surprising directions (i.e. the punk-folk of “I’m No Good At All”). What’s remarkable, however, is the consistently unified voice the band presents despite their differing sonic personas. Their ability to find common ground amidst diverse songs is impressive, particularly considering that this album was at one point regarded as only a demo. But if the continually exciting song dynamics brought to bear by these compelling tracks were truly intended for just a demo, then the future of SMMD is indeed quite bright. As is, this album is a great collection of music in which Mr. Davis will surely, in fact, surprise you.

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