“The guitar is dead,” they say. They’ve been saying it for years – through disco, rap, electronica and everything else that’s come along. But folks like Aaron Lee Tasjan refuse to eulogize the guitar. It’s not dead, just different. Bend and shape the instrument your way to say what you wanna say. And, on his fourth studio album, Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!, the songwriter uses his favorite instrument to bolster his most personal collection so far, full of songs with themes identifiable with listeners who, like Tasjan himself, don’t quite fit in, but have so much to offer.
Record label execs have been confused/dismayed by Tasjan’s rather genre-free approach to songwriting, and this record continues that trend – it’s by no means a “guitar” record in the traditional sense. According to Tasjan, though, much of what we hear on the album “that sound[s] like synths or strings or other instruments are actually guitar.” And he backs this up on the second track, “Computer of Love,” an anti-technology screed full of misleading avatars, warped minds and “fake friends.” Based on acoustic guitars and (yes) whistles, Tasjan directly addresses the state of his favorite instrument and the music business as it stands today – “May the guitar rest in peace for it’s dead once more/What old white men must police whenever they get bored.”
The lead single, “Up All Night,” is a synth-y ode to ambiguity that has Tasjan looking at both sides of the issues that worry him the most, whether it’s his finances (“Saved up all my money and blew all of my money”) or his health (“You might have a problem/But I really can’t tell”). Through all of the confusion, he arrives at the junction that most of us have reached at one point or another – “It’s gonna be alright or it won’t be.” The fact that all of this worry is wrapped up in the catchiest damn tune you’ll hear this year makes it ridiculously enjoyable. The man may not be overly wordy, but he knows a hook when he plays it.
“Don’t Overthink It,” a cosmic blues riff, seeks to de-emphasize the negative – “I know the bad is getting badder/It doesn’t matter” – but also dials up the personal responsibility angle, as Tasjan reminds us that “Every corner you cut…goes straight to the bone” before the tune dissolves into a shimmering guitar outro. That failure to mind one’s vices could leave us in a bad place, as Tasjan details in the largely acoustic “Another Lonely Day,” which begins “When I woke up today, yesterday was in my may.” Again, his personal health is in doubt – “I came up with some plans at the bottom of a couple of cans.”
The album, written over roughly two years, is sequenced chronologically, so we see the changes that Tasjan has gone through (personally even more so than professionally) song by song. Past the halfway point of the record, “Feminine Walk” is a sort of origin story, as Tasjan walks us through his gaining a degree of comfort with his life and sexuality. Referencing drag queens, adrogynous rockers, and his own “metropolitan Conway Twitty” phase, he eventually grows into his own skin – “I got legs for days, I got a million ways” countering the old Peter Green line “I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin” – and tops it off with (of course) a great guitar solo. As long as he keeps writing songs like this (and keeps his guitar), his career will have legs for years.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Up All Night” – I don’t dance. Ever. But this tune might tempt me…
Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! was produced by Aaron Lee Tasjan and Gregory Lattimer, recorded by Lattimer, mixed by Jon Congelton and mastered by Greg Calbi. All songs were written by Tasjan, with Lattimer, Scot Sax and Patrick Damphier earning co-writing credits. Musicians on the album include Lattimer, Tommy Scifres, Dylan Sevey, Keith Christopher, Fred Eltringham, Josh Kaler, Devon Ashley, Dom Billet, Jon Radford and Matt Rowlands.
Go here to order Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!: https://store.newwestrecords.com/collections/aaron-lee-tasjan-tasjan-tasjan-tasjan