Like a more self-deprecating, decidedly morose John Prine, or perhaps a more jovial Guy Clark, New Jersey native Darrin Bradbury’s songs are riddled with hilarious, obvious-once-you-hear-them observations on mundane everyday life. The eleven songs on Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs, Bradbury’s new release on ANTI- Records, leave listeners singing along with sometimes ridiculous, often dark, but instantly familiar tunes.
Produced by Kenneth Pattengale (The Milk Carton Kids), Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs is a collection of songs born from dealing with depression and the pressures of life in the only way Bradbury knows; by poking fun at it. “It’s an album trying to combat depression, to laugh your way out of depression, and to be honest and accurate with that depression,” Bradbury quips. “I try to write things that make me chuckle, and that chuckling is usually making peace with the existential dilemma of both the times and life in general.”
With only one co-writer on the entire album—ANTI- label-mate, friend, and fellow esteemed Nashville musician, Jeremy Ivey—Bradbury’s one-of-a-kind style is allowed to shine brilliantly, unobstructed by outside opinion. The tracking of Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs was completed in a similarly simple way; using the same combo of musicians for every song on the record. Aside from producer Pattengale’s mellotron and vocal contributions and the aforementioned Ivey’s bass and piano playing, only two extra musicians were called to round out the band; Alex Muñoz on additional guitars and Dillon Napier on drums. The only exception is the lone guest vocalist on the album, modern outlaw country queen and longtime supporter of Bradbury, Margo Price, who adds a somber harmony to a track titled “The Trouble With Time.”
Of the eleven songs on Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs, only two of them are more than three minutes long. The shortest of which, “Strange Bird,” clocks in at one minute, seventeen seconds. “In the writing of this album, what was important to me was that the song was over when the thought was over. It wasn't about having to fill a certain amount of space,” Bradbury says. “If I'm not motivated to say anything more about this particular thing, I won't force it. I would rather have a minute-and-a-half song that I felt conveyed something unique.”
Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs is Darrin Bradbury’s first release on ANTI- Records. “Darrin possesses a wonderful, darkly sardonic sense of humor and a matter of fact wisdom that reminded me of some of my favorite writers from Chuck Berry to Mose Allison to John Prine,” says ANTI- founder, Andy Kaulkin. “I haven’t heard anyone do this sort of thing on this level for a very long time. His songs keep me on the edge of my seat.”
“When I write, there are things that I want to get away with,” Bradbury says. “I want to get away with the line, ‘I woke up this morning and I got out of bed / Tripped on my pants and fell on my head.’ ” Overall, Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs is a beautifully refined version of Bradbury’s writing; going for broke, connecting the dots, and doing it with blunt honesty that brings it all home. “If I can get you to take that seriously, and not skip a beat when you listen to it, that's what I want.”