Review by Kent Manthie
Tyler Sullivan is a “major music powerhouse”. He’s just released This Man, an admixture of woven, dreamy songs. The guitar is very pure and has an echoing reverb to it that adds a bit of the ethereal. That, along with the absence of percussion and his strange, tin voice that rattles off a lot of free-association style lyrics. I like this album. It’s not a copy of anything. As if he’d been in a box for the past 10 years and only hearing the sounds in his head that have come out now as the music on this album, from the opening song, “Ticks”, a discordant sort of song but with beautiful guitar backing it up to other tunes that seem to be significant in meaning more so to Tyler but that still have a great musical backdrop. Like a Samuel Beckett play performed at a lush opera house; things like “Dead Man Cummin’” a title that suggests a double-entendre. Or “Freedom & Freewill” to “Don’t Get So Down, Man”, a song that he seems to be singing to himself as much as to the listener. Then the last tune is a one minute instrumental, end-of-the-night, when dreams get even weirder, “Hedon”. After that, you wake from your musical reverie and realize that you just spent about a half hour in a hypnotic daze, made manifest by the aural translucence.
Originally from Tennessee, Sullivan now resides in Carbondale, Illinois. Illinois, these days, is home to a larger and larger contingent of great indie acts, everywhere from Champaign to Chicago and in between, I’ve been overwhelmed by the large amount of talent that’s coming out of the center of the country. Of course, I don’t mean big name “pop-rock” bands that you may hear on the radio (except maybe on a college-based, non-commercial radio station) – at least no radio station owned by the homogenization-intent Clear Channel.
Somewhat a man of mystery, there seems to be quite a dearth of information about Tyler. At least as far as the internet is concerned. He does go to school, currently, at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. But, when it comes down to it, do you really need to know the artist’s life story in order to have their work pique your interest? Probably not. Looking back in time, one can find out all sorts of things about their favorite band from when they were a teen or a lonesome singer they liked when they were in college, etc. They find out, in some biography or article, that the person in question was a serious dope fiend, which really doesn’t surprise me nor should it surprise anyone, so that’s not even an issue, but what if you find out that this singer you really dig or used to, turns out to be – oh no…GAY? Wow. Big deal, half of Hollywood is gay and who cares anyway? Maybe your favorite actor from the 80s was involved in a deadly car accident that was due to too much alcohol in his system, but it happened in some faraway land and with a good team of publicists supplied by the studio for whom you work, or your agent or the SAG, etc, it’s kept out of the news in the US -at least for the next 25-30 years, when the guy’s not vulnerable to such stories hurting his career. See what I mean? Not that I mean to link Tyler to anything like this, not at all. I’m sure he’s a fine guy. Quite an artistically-minded, motivated, DIY musician, photog, experimental artist, etc. So, don’t get too hung up on bios; they’re not all that important, really, unless the past reveals something of paramount importance to how he creates his art today. One’s childhood and the environment in which one grew up could be of consequence in the medium they choose to work, their style or subject matter. But, all that can come later, when he’s made a few more albums and if he chooses to share his past with this celebrity-obsessed culture of ours, in which, some guy, whose name we don’t even know because he uses a pseudonym, a silly one at that, can become “famous” just for… for “being”. There are too many so-called celebrities (people who’s name and face are seen splashed all over tabloids and trashy gossip shows) in the mix today and the line is becoming blurred between the ones who deserve to be recognized and ones who are only recognizable because of some sophomoric stunt they pulled – a slutty sex tape that went “viral” over the internet, a person who happened to be a witness to something bigger and more sensational which had nothing to do with this guy, who, because he looked funny or talked in a goofy way, is turned into a comically, yet, briefly, famous name or face. The real talents out there are the ones that aren’t all over People magazine or TMZ or Access Hollywood and other blasé crap. It’s just that you have to dig deeper to find the unique ones out there, singers, bands or artists of various media that are the real vanguard of what, in about 5-10 years will catch up to Hollywood’s meat grinder machinations.
Just take Tyler Sullivan at face value (and the scrawled face on the cover of This Man is a wonderful mood-portrait – of whom, I can’t say for sure) and listen to the album on its merits. Then, later on, you might figure more out. -KM.