Dolorean, The Unfazed

Andrew Mueller

By Andrew Mueller

on 01.07.11 in Reviews

The Unfazed


It is surprising that Dolorean haven't become better known in the decade or so of their existence. For a start, they've spent most of that time amid the fecund and much-scrutinized scene of Portland, Oregon — home of the Decemberists, among others. More to the point, they've released a succession of quietly terrific albums, of which The Unfazed is the fourth, and by some measure the best.

Unfussy but inspired country-rock from undersung vets

It may be Dolorean's determined unfussiness that has caused the spotlight to slide past them. There isn't an ostentatious note, beat or phrase on The Unfazed: Al James's gentle, wistful country-rock laments have been fashioned by a band confident that no flashiness is necessary. It takes rare nerve to deliver an entire album which doesn't once raise its pace above a forlorn, hungover stagger. That's what Dolorean have done here, however: Imagine a Gram Parsons solo album without the upbeat shufflers, or R.E.M.'s Out Of Time recalibrated so that every track is a variation on "Low."

It would be unfair, however, to characterize James as a miserabilist. Like the best country and country-inspired writers — Chris Mills and Eels' E are plausible reference points — James understands that the only thing more wretched than tragedy is comedy. "Fools Gold Ring" and "Sweet Love" are gloriously sardonic, and "Country Clutter" actually goes on to improve on the opening line "Your life's work/ Is making me hurt."