Back with his first full-length effort since last year’s Sriracha, You Didn’t Say it Was THAT Spicy, Dad returns to interrogate his familiar themes of petty grievance and the self-inflicted wounds of martyrdom, but goes further this time in boldly traversing the fresh new terrain opening up when late middle-age grousing gives way to the howling defiance of senior citizenship.
At times redolent of Dylan’s most freewheeling circumlocutions, The Mayflower Terrace Homeowners Association Can Kiss My Ass is every bit as vibrant as it is profane. “Who the fuck are they to tell me,” Dad asks, “how early in the morning I can use a power washer? A POWER WASHER!” He thunders on in increasingly propulsive verses, “That rat-nosed little snitch probably found, like, THREE GODDAMN WORDS somewhere in the bylaws.” His fury here, presumably aimed at the HOA board vice president and his longtime nemesis, would feel more at home on Pretty Hate Machine than it does on Mom and Dad’s pretty cul-de-sac.
Without pandering to modern notions of “listenability,” Dad seems content to let his audience find its own meaning couched within coy hints of neighborly retribution and vigilantism, “if he wakes up one day / and sees his swimming pool turned green / let’s just say / I know a thing or two about pH balance.” One needn’t be aware of Dad’s shadowy background as a retired chemistry teacher for his message to chill with a foreboding as sinister as the most slithering trip-hop bassline.
It is a testament to Dad’s artistic growth that, this late in his career, he can extend his creative energy beyond the quotidian parameters of domestic life. Early releases like Stop Touching the Thermostat and You Can’t Expect Us to Make Good Time If We Don’t Leave Before 7:00 AM, while foundational, felt overly burdened by polite restraint. Here on Mayflower, we find a man triumphantly unfettered from the concerns of popular opinion. Raging, audacious, spitting insults in staccato bursts, Dad topples the norms of what we expect from advancing age’s more andante rhythms. He’s angry, insistent, obstreperously refusing as Auden once put it, to be “stowed out of conscience as unpopular luggage.”
By the end, his diatribe jarringly gives way to a freestyle coughing fit. As a closer, this bronchial crescendo, with its plaintive and pleuritic stabs of grief, is only a few chugging honks short of pure transcendence. Nevertheless, we find ourselves hoping Dad is okay. Can his battle-torn vocal cords keep pace with the torrential arpeggios of outrage such as they are? Is Mom close by enough to turn on the TV to cool him off? His fans can only hope. Amid a swirl of rumors that he is finally planning to join Nextdoor, Dad’s future in the genre seems brighter and freer of limits than ever.