They say a picture paints a thousand words. If that’s the case, then Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell is nothing short of a renaissance artist. His paint brush is a lyric sheet, his canvas a guitar, and his product is the phenomenal We Don’t Have Each Other. His daring attempt at a solo effort, under the moniker Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties, is a 9 track fictional tale of despair and heartache. It’s vivid words and relatable themes paint a more believable picture than you could imagine, to the point that you question whether Aaron West is a fictional character at all.
Opener ‘Our Apartment’ sets the tone that we’re going to go through for the entirety of the record, and instantly dove tails away from anything that might make you think of Campbell’s day job, The Wonder Years. Here we see West understand that he’s about to go through a divorce, while shortly after we learn that he’s lost his father, the man he emulated to be.
Campbell is renowned in his genre for his songwriting capabilities, for his descriptive prowess and making it all so relatable. Here, with We Don’t Have Each Other, he hones in on each of these attributes and makes it that much better. He knows practice makes perfect, and has said he views Aaron West as a way of improving his skill. Well, it’s easy to see that his practice has paid off.
Take the initially released song, ‘You Ain’t No Saint’. It opens with a slight acoustic guitar and TWY drummer Mike Kennedy (who provides the beat throughout the record), before the track opens and becomes something new entirely, something we’ve never heard from Campbell before. Harmonicas and banjos are introduced to the fray, but these and the other instruments are on the back pedal. Campbell is a poet, nothing short, and so the lyrics quite literally do the talking.
“But you ain’t no saint / and I ain’t one either” sees Dan/Aaron hold no sentimentality to his soon to be ex-wife, and yet doesn’t hold himself in much higher regard. While on ‘Get Me Out Of Here Alive’, he opens with “I’m starting to believe / that there’s a God and he hates me”, and leaves that to hang for a few seconds. It lingers, and shows the both the anger and sadness in his statement.
And possibly the best song on the record, ‘The Thunderbird Inn’ shows more emotion in the first 30 seconds than are found in every belittling rom-com film to date. Aaron is on his own, in a dirty motel, and his only friend is the man behind reception. It’s been the longest night, and Aaron just wants to go home. But it grows from there, and you feel for the young man who’s pouring his heart out to whoever is willing to hear.
Campbell has brought forward probably a defining moment in his career with We Don’t Have Each Other. The loss, the want, the yearning and the trouble throughout the record are on a level not yet tapped by this genre, and the singer songwriter has only cemented his place as one of the most proficient lyricists in the business. This is his masterpiece. Michelangelo has David. Leonardo da Vinci has Mona Lisa. Dan Campbell has Aaron West.
Venue: We Don’t Have Each Other
Support Band: Hopeless Records