Brett Newski Goes Full On Rock with ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

There is a painful irony to Brett Newski’s latest LP, Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down, as it arrives at a time when the globe is on mandatory lockdown; sheltered into our homes with little-to-no human interaction and screens being a constant as many of us turn to technology to keep in touch with society. Meanwhile, this powerful, affecting album, one of his best in years, tackles issues like social media addiction and a lack of face-to-face, genuine human interactions. It’s Lucy yanking away that goddamn football playing out in real life.

Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down is his fourth studio LP and also happens to be – for lack of a more original description – Newski’s full on rock album. Over the course of the past decade, Newski has gone from being a Midwestern kid of the ‘90s making DIY solo acoustic punk recording from bedrooms as he traveled across Vietnam, Thailand and Hong Kong to (almost) recording with a full band on this latest effort. Turns out it’s just Newski and his multi-talented wingman Matt Spatola (playing drums, bass and keyboards), but here is a lot more electric guitar and a much broader sound this time around, from the very first distorted chords of the opening track, “Grow Your Garden.” The result is a nice departure without losing any of the strong lyrical quality of his earlier efforts. Newski has never been shy about his allegiance to Tom Petty and never has that influence been as strong as on this record. And that’s not saying he’s aping Petty’s style; it’s just that he’s written some pretty stellar songs that, like Petty, appear simple until you realize just how profound they are (coincidentally, “Last Dance,” located dead center of the album, is easily one of Newski’s best songs).      

The other downside to our current code lockdown society is that Newski, a constant on the road throughout the year, is shackled to home base like the rest of us. While his albums are great, his live show – all clichés aside – are a study in entertainment. Alone on the stage or backed by Spatola, he has a remarkable knack for connecting with his audiences. While not the same, you can still see for yourself from the comfort of your couch. Newski’s holding a Live From the Great Indoors! album release show on Friday night.

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