Til Now (2004)

“A rich weave of acoustic and electric guitars behind a voice that sounds vulnerable, yet has a strong confident core… carried along on strong tunes and blazing chord progressions. Singer songwriter albums of the standard of Damien Binder’s “Til Now” are few and far between.” Nick Bollinger – The Sampler

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By RUSSELL BAILLIE (Herald rating: * * * *)

The usual path for the Kiwi bloke singer-songwriter is to have the legacy of a band or three behind him before striking out under his own name.

Even Greg Johnson was once a “Set”.  Aucklander Damien Binder, whose voice isn’t unlike Johnson’s, and is here on his second solo album after his impressive self-titled 2000 debut, did his mid-90s time in the group Second Child, which didn’t really dent the national pop conscience.

But here Binder again proves that the personal approach agrees with him and his songs, on an album which ranges from toe-tapping pop- and country-rock to moody, heartfelt ballads.

If there’s a drawback it’s that the music sounds too even-tempered, and Binder’s voice can sound like he is again fronting a band rather than being the natural centre of attention.

However, if the production isn’t calling attention to itself, the songs soon shine through. Among the brightest are the optimistic opener Til Now, the rueful heart-on-sleeve Anytime, the Crowded House-ish A Day’s Grace, the country-hearted More Than You Could Know (helped by Dianne Swann’s sweet harmonies) and the equally dreamy pair of Take Me and the closing Passing Through.

It may lack that one standout track that might win him an extra spotlight, but that doesn’t stop Binder’s second being an album as convincing as its predecessor in its honest emotions and intelligent songcraft.

“The Sampler ” – Radio NZ
Presenter: Nick Bollinger
12.30 AM Saturday 6 September 2003. Transcript of broadcast.

There’s something symbolic about the musician who rises from the ranks of a rock band to flourish as a solo artist. It’s like a rite of passage in the adolescence of rock ‘n’ roll to the maturity of the singer-songwriter. And “maturity” is certainly a word that springs to mind listening to the new album from this ex-rock ‘n’ roller.

His name is Damien Binder and you might have come across him fronting the Auckland guitar band, Second Child, back in the late 90’s. They were loud, yet melodic, but on his own he’s let the volume drop and the melodies come to the fore.

[Anytime] is typical of Binder’s new album, his second, which is called ‘Til Now’; a rich weave of acoustic and electric guitar behind a voice that sounds vulnerable, yet has a strong confident core. [Take Me] reminds me a little of another rock n’roller gone solo; American singer-songwriter Paul Westerberg.

If American roots rockers clearly has their effect on Damien Binder, there is also a hint of the English art songwriter about him, and there are moments such as [A Day’s Grace] where he almost morphs into Elvis Costello.

‘Til Now’ was made with a small core of musicians, just Binder and his co-writer Bob Shepheard, who handle all the guitars, along with drummer producer Steve Garden. But for one song [More Than You Could Know] Binder is joined by another voice, but it’s one you might just recognise.

That’s Dianne Swann, of When The Cat’s Away and The Julie Dolphin blending her breathy tones with Binder’s on one of the album’s strong ballads. So, what are Damien Binder’s songs about? Mostly it’s the stock singer-songwriter subject, “the rocky road to love”. The words can be a bit vague, but they’re carried along on strong tunes and blazing chord progressions.

There’s a lot of adolescent rock being made in this country at the moment and a ton of bedsit electronica, but singer-songwriter albums of the standard of Damien Binder’s ‘Til Now’ are few and far between.

NZ MUSICIAN Vol 11 No.2 Oct/Nov 2003© NZ Musician magazine

The August/Sept NZM promised it, and here it is, the second album from Auckland singer/songwriter Damien Binder. The 10 well crafted songs generally tackle the theme of relational issues, but with a few twists in the otherwise familiar thematic road.

Production is aided by Bob Shepheard and Steve Garden, who also respectively provide their bass and drum skills, among other talents. The collaboration is one of those production tem-ups that consistently produce good stuff, and this offering is certainly no exception. The nicely uncluttered arrangements see Binder’s very capable guitar augmented by that of Chris Van de Geer, who also handled mix duties.

I sometimes feel that an album that grabs me too quickly is also one I’ll get bored with quickly. Til Now took a wee while to warm to, which for me means it’s got depth and durability that will protect it from coffee-coaster status. This album may well herald Damien Binder as a name and sound we might be hearing more of on the airwaves – not at all a bad thing.

Tim Page

NZ LISTENER October 25-31, 2003 (dual review)

In many ways Damien Binder tills the same turf as [Dean] Chandler; another ex-band man with a bunch of true-life confessions, a sensitive strummer searching for a home in a digital world.

Til Now is the second disc he’s made since he broke up his band, Auckland rockers Second Child, to focus on songs and singing.

In contrast to [Brady] Blade’s expansive palette, Binder’s production team – Aucklanders Steve Garden and Bob Shepheard – keep things crisp and economical. Tasteful splashes of Hammond organ augment their drums and bass and Binder and Shepheard’s well-woven electric and acoustic guitars. At times their root-pop resembles a less raggedy Paul Westerberg, or early Crowded House.

Like Chandler’s, Binder’s lyrics might be the difference between good and great pop. You hear clichés such as “up against a brick wall” or “keeping you at arm’s length” and hope to find them twisted and transformed – something Dave Dobbyn is excellent at doing. Yet too often Binder is content to let them be.

Still, he has some heart-melting melodies and an achingly melodic voice. And if Til Now doesn’t sustain the maturity it’s best moments hint at, it stands up alongside Dean Chandler as a confident example of the kind of grown-up pop record this country could use more of.

Nick Bollinger