Donovan Quinn on Supreme Dicks – The Unexamined Life


I honestly can’t believe that I’m this deep into the run of Hidden Gems before getting Donovan Quinn to grab a pick, but I’m thankful we’re all here to see it. Quinn has been a longtime staple of RSTB having haunted this pages with The Skygreen Leopards, New Bums and his own solo recordings over the years. Donavan’s songwriting has always had a woolen intimacy to it, whether he’s alone or sparring with another excellent songwriter like Glenn Donaldson or Ben Chasny. I’d figured there might be some choice cuts on that record shelf and Donovan does not disappoint. He’s nabbed a pick from the always essential Homestead label, the debut from ‘90s New Englanders Supreme Dicks. See how this one came into Donovan’s collection and the impact it’s had on his songwriting.

“This is wild, engaging music where the musicians are always pursuing a compelling ever-branching path,” exclaims Quinn. “You feel like you’re listening to something that can’t be replicated and its constant shifts keep you engaged throughout. Like many, I’ll often listen to music while washing the dishes, or put on an LP at the lowest volume as a soundtrack buried beneath conversation — The Unexamined Life isn’t that type of record. It’s more suited for long walks, or drives when traffic is sparse; when you can concentrate on the songs and let them color what’s around you.”

“It kicks off with ’In a Sweet Song’; creepy acoustics, haunting vocals, intriguing lyrics and a loose unhinged arrangement — a great start that establishes how dynamic the record is. Then it goes into an all time favorite song of mine, ‘The Arabian Song.’ “Damn, it’s killer,” praises Quinn. “Such unique voices, great guitar work, recorders, noise. The lyrics are audacious; moving, disturbing, lucid yet vague, kinda foggy, and with a humor to them. ‘River Jordan running backwards.’ From there it flowers out into jam after jam full of moments that demand that you rewind and listen again. In ‘The Sun’s Bells’ the tambourine and tom drum are ritualistic under the blown out guitars and I’ll replay certain bits of feedback because their moment seems to pass too soon. In ‘Jack Smith’ I wait for how “in a rented world” is phrased and followed by a beautiful guitar arpeggio that builds into a swirling jam that I’d guess only sounded that way once. There are countless micro highlights like this all the way until you reach the closer ‘Strange Song’ with it’s “hallelujahs” and locked-in full bore instrumental sections.” 

“Besides the enjoyment I’ve had listening to Supreme Dicks, over many years, I also learned a lot about how to make music from them. As far as I’m concerned it is as good as any record you could add to your collection.” 

That’s pretty high praise coming from a songwriter like Donovan and it seems a few others thought so as well. While the original only came out on CD in 1993, Jagjaguwar issued the album on vinyl and digital in 2011. The former is out of print, but still kicking around some shops for a good price if you search (forever the Hidden Gem, even in a second life) and the digital is there when you need it. I’d recommend grabbing one if you luck across it as a nice pairing with Quinn’s latest with New Bums, out just a few weeks ago.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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