Darin / Solitarium
Copper, 1998

John Borack
February 15, 1999  

Gotta admit that when I first slipped this one in the ol’ CD changer, I hated it. Hated it. I’m not sure why, exactly; it may have been because the leadoff cut, “Funky Flying Chair” (not very funky, actually) is the worst thing on the record, or due to the fact that none of the other tracks slapped me silly at first blush. Either way, I fully believed that Darrell Clingman—Copper Records’ honcho, and the man who introduced the genius of Cotton Mather and the power chords of the Shazam to the pop world—had taken temporary leave of his senses by releasing it on the Copper imprint.

Well, folks, I’m not ashamed to admit that my initial impression was stone wrong. Solitarium, so named because Senor Darin performed 99.9 percent of this puppy all by his lonesome—is a damned fine achievement, balancing sultry pop hooks with deft lyricism. Singing in a voice that recalls a more colorful Jason Falkner, Darin invests each and every tune with a little something special, be it the inviting double-tracked vocals on the chorus of the intense “Down,” the gentle, easygoing verses of “Big Pink Glasses,” the pure pop racket of “15 Minutes” (dig that cartoonish closing bit), some nearly alt-countryisms on “Stuck in a Hole,” or the forceful-but-not-heavyhanded guitar approach on “Bloods Getting Colder.”

Many of the songs here are also noteworthy for lyrics that are either whimsical (check the “french bread pizza” reference in “Funky Flying Chair”) or pissy (“You’re deaf and you’re blind/but your mouth seems to work just fine,” from the ace musical putdown “Don’t Look at Me,” is perfect). And on what is perhaps Solitarium’s apex, Darin gets all self-deprecating on “She’s Better Than Me,” a song whose chorus gets hammered into the cranium by boom-boom-boom drumming and refuses to leave.

Crafting a debut that could easily please both Gen-x kiddies (they love that lyrical anger, irony and bitterness, y’know) and pop nuts like you ’n’ me (we love those hooks that have staying power), Austin’s Darin has arrived in a big way.