Brian Dunne – ‘Bug Fixes & Performance Improvements’ album review

Let’s make no bones about this – ‘Bug Fixes & Performance Improvements’ is a classic piece of timeless country folk rock. There isn’t anything ground-breaking here. If you like your ground broken, go listen to Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes. Go listen to the Blanck Mass EP with the dog on the cover. If you’re into warmly executed, lyrically incisive, melancholy & tender music, which I absolutely am, then this is a lovely example and a treasured addition to my record collection. I like ground that I can walk on and this is that.

Here’s a live session of ‘Atlanta Song’, the album closer, to start with. Sounds even better on the record, with Brian’s light touch claw complemented by subtle drums, bass and a subtle scattering of organ.

What a writer he is. If we only have a moment and then it fades, well, it sure was nice to know you, anyways. That’s a heck of a way to put it, isn’t it? He’s a funny guy, too; the album title is the kind of album title where, once you had that idea, you have to make an album called that. And then he has enough style and grace to go and make the album this beautifully restrained.

I don’t give records marks out of ten or scores or even compare one record to another. Music is not sport. Music is not a thing to pit one against another, it isn’t a race or a competition, may the strongest survive or triumph – this not how I like to see it. Art is for other things. I enjoy a good sportsball tournament as much as the next man, well, maybe a little less, but I listen to music to hear something that moves me. I want to be understood, show me love, has anything like this happened to you? I want to recognise myself in the words of others, a shared & common experience, something to hold onto, it isn’t just me, I’m not alone, I’m part of something bigger than me, and that’s a stimulating and life affirming thing, even if the thing we share seems sad. ‘Bug Fixes & Performance Improvements’ does just that for me.

Yeah, anyway, so here’s a live session with him doing ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’ – one of my songs of the year and what a lyric, holy shit. I can’t even listen to this without kind of welling up:

‘you can make a good case out of my mistakes, you’d be right to write me out, if you need to throw a stone, you can throw a stone, if you need to call me names, make yourself at home, but don’t give up, don’t give up, on me now’

Brian’s either been to places I been or knows someone who has and I think I feel bad for him that he has but also lucky to have him, since he’s better at writing about that hopeless optimism that puts your head in this space than most and he really speaks to me when he sings. All I ever really from music I listen to is that connection, that distant human spark of understanding – this dude knows what I’m going through and can put it so beautifully, it’s an enriching experience, listening to this album. I love his comments about this track, from his website:

“It’s about the devotion to maintaining your idealism as the world makes you more cynical. It’s about putting your chips back on the table after you’ve suffered a big loss. And if you have to lose again, lose in a big way…” 

Maybe there’s no need to feel bad that Brian knows what this feels like. No, on second thoughts, I think he’s lucky. And I think I am too. I think you’re unlucky if you never got to love that big in the first place, maybe it’s the settlers and the compromises that are the true deservers of pity and for those of us who know how it feels to love and to lose in a big way, well, shit, we have to carry that but if we can get out of bed in the morning still, then it was all worth it, wasn’t it? Damn straight, it was.

You can support this independent musician by picking up his album from like I did. It’s also streaming, everywhere, obviously.

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