Review of Century Plaza Album by Dan Sartain

Since his first commercially available album 'Dan Sartain vs. the Serpientes' introduced us to his rockabilly blues music over a decade ago, American musician Dan Sartain has entertained with his take on a more retro rock and roll sound ever since - and I was excited to hear more. Alas, it was not meant to be; he has deviated down the same path as many other rock/indie musicians have done in more recent years, and decided to test the electro synth-pop waters. Granted, with a cover featuring a black-eyed Sartain staring out gloomily from blue neon-lit shadows and 80s-esque typography I should have guessed that something rather different was awaiting, but I wasn't prepared for quite such a deviation.

Dan Sartain Century Plaza Album

The opening track, 'Walk Among The Cobras', is a reworking of one of the stand-out tracks on his debut which originally oozed slick guitar twangs and fast-paced, angsty vocals that complemented the lyrics perfectly. However, these have now been replaced with synth-pop pulses, a much slower pace and deeper tone both musically and vocally - not dissimilar to Depeche Mode - and this sets the tone for the following seven songs. After the painfully slow, grating electro oscillations of 'Cabrini Green', Sartain launches into a welcomingly buoyant cover of 'Wipeout Beat' by Alan Vega (one of the musician's long-term influences), which rather faithfully replicates its predecessor. Not necessarily a bad thing as it's one of the better tracks here, but for someone who seems intent on trying new things with this record, you'd think Sartain would have tried to experiment more with it. 

It's clear to see why 'Sinking In The Shallow End' was chosen as the lead single as it's probably one of the more accessible tracks, sticking with more mainstream electro riffs, and was a gentle choice to ease Sartain's fans into his new direction. However, in the context of the album overall, it seems rather bland and forgettable. 

Anyone who has listened to Sartain's work before will know he is undeniably talented - but this simply doesn't showcase him at his best and the whole record feels as if he isn't entirely comfortable with the genre switch.  At only half an hour in length, his moody foray into the synth and electro world is undeniably brief ¬- and the fan's reactions will surely help determine whether it remains as swift a visit in the long term.

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