By Al Kaufman
The Starter Kits is essentially Mikey Dwyer. Dwyer has played bass and drums with various bands over the last 10 years. But while recovering from back surgery, he found he had a lot of time on his hands and was able to pump out a nice batch rock songs, which he then recorded in his Athens, Ga. home.
Dwyer's voice encompasses the fractured angst of J Mascis with the earnestness of Paul Westerberg. He whines and pleads like a man who has had one too many whiskeys but never teeters over the edge. It's actually a quite beautiful sound.
With Backsliding Baby, Dwyer manages to to work in the sounds of many of his classic rock influences while still sounding fresh. While comparisons to J Mascis' Dinosaur Jr can be easily made, the punk guitar licks of the Clash and Ramones show up on "Shame Shame Shame Shame" and "Into the Night" (which morphs into a Ziggy era David Bowie sound-alike). "I Don't Stand a Chance" incorporates the jangly guitars that were a staple in all the best Jayhawks songs.
It's the slower stuff that really hangs with the listener. Dwyer vocal phrasings on "Take Me Back" recall those of Leonard Cohen on "Bird on a Wire." Both songs deal with a broken man looking for acceptance, and both songs convey that need beautifully. But "Ghost" is the true standout here. Imagine Wilco when Jeff Tweedy is at his neediest, and add the weather beaten emotions of Marianne Faithfull, and you have some idea of how exposed Dwyer appears on this track.
Maybe it's something about chronic back pain that makes a person sound so raw. Here's to hoping Dwyer can achieve the same results while standing straight and tall.