Sean O' Brien: Seed of Mayhem
First Cold Press
Sean O’Brien’s ‘Seed of Mayhem’ features 14 gritty tunes from the land of late-night losers wrapped in a rough-and-tumble package of hard-edged music.
O’Brien’s roots lie in the California rock scene. He got his start in Davis, Calif. combos, including True West and its precursor Meantime – a moodier step brother to Paisley Underground bands like the Dream Syndicate.
Indeed, ‘Seed of Mayhem’ is as good as anything Steve Wynn has done lately – which is to say it’s very, very good.
O’Brien’s worked with ex-Angry Samoan Greg Turner, and served alongside members of Baby Lemonade, the Leaving Trains and in The Mariettas and Denim TV. A few of them appear on the album, providing ace (and deceptively diverse) instrumental and vocal support.
O’Brien’s tense vocals set the mood for ‘This Could Hurt’ a sharp tune distinguished by the guitar work of O’Brien, True West’s Russ Tolman and Leaving Trains axeman Manfred Hofer (Trains alum and Hofer brother Tom plays bass). The grumbling lyrics of ‘This Could Hurt’ can keep company with the Hold Steady’s and the Flaming Stars.
After a trio of coiled and gritty tunes, O’Brien changes the pace with a series of detours, starting with the acoustic number ‘The Bottom of the Toybox’ featuring nicely fingerpicked guitar and cello. ‘Damned Either Way’ adds some country flourishes, including pedal steel courtesy of Red Meat’s Max Butler.
The choogling scree of ‘Tranny Ignored’ gets points alone for the timeless couplet "I don’t care how you piss/ As long as you do". ‘Dough See Dough’ takes a playful twist with its accordion and trumpet.
‘Possum Ate The Cat Food’ unleashes some more of Tolman’s distinctive leadwork, backed by flavourful Indian percussion and strings.
A winner from start to finish, ‘Seed of Mayhem’ is recommended to anyone who likes the tougher side of powerpop, or the solo work of artists like Steve Wynn and Kim Salmon.