I’ll admit, I’m not much of a folk punk fan. That said, Portlanders Destroy Nate Allen totally charmed me. Well, technically, “Perfect Recipe for a Smile” is Destroy Nate Allen, written & performed by Nate and his wife Tessa, and “Don’t Let This Smile Fool You” is Nate Allen alone.
“Perfect Recipe..” has very sparse instrumentation – guitar, male & female vocals, and the occasional shaken percussion. The aesthetics are straight up punk rock, while the lyrics mix introspective, personal storytelling in the vein of
The opener, “Anchors Away”, and “White Flag” later on, are fairly simple, fun songs. I can’t quite guess whether the lyrics hint at a bigger story or were simply fun to say, but it doesn’t really matter.
The majority of the songs on “Perfect Recipe..” are super cute duets describing the story (real or fictionalized, I don’t know) of Nate and Tessa’s relationship, or Nate’s feelings about life. “Turns Out Your Perfect For Me” “Loving You”, “His Lips Are Sealed Hallelujah” , “Despite It All”. Destroy Nate Allen have a good way of capturing the victories and challenges of loving someone. My favourite is “Loving You”, which depicts the difficulties of loving someone even though “she likes the songs that I don’t like.” Nate and Tessa have amazing chemistry – I feel almost like an eavesdropper listening to them sing about their love. “Recipe” is a song I’m really sorry my old band Project Casserole didn’t write. It’s a theatrical, poppy instruction to cooking – “Follow the recipe the first time that you do it, after you do that you can add things to it.” And hey, that’s really good advice.
“Don’t Let This Smile Fool You”, is even simpler in instrumentation – just Nate and a banjo. It’s also a quick one – the longest song is . Track 1, “Phil Collins” has that purposely-fuzzy, ancient wax cylinder microphone sound. “35, 35, 35” is a great song. I can’t explain exactly way – it’s just fun and poppy and makes me feel really good.
The next three, “Guitar Strings”, “Glow in the Dark”, and “How To Make a Girl Cry”, are love songs. And for the record, “How To Make a Girl Cry” is so sweet that I did start to cry a little while I was listening to it. All Allen’s love songs contain the kind of sweet, emotional things that most guys won’t hardly admit to saying to the person they’re saying it about, much less tell the whole world – I give him double kudos for that.
The next two songs, “Grandpa”, and “Ain’t Gonna Rain no More” are something completely different, but related to eachother. The first is Nate asking his grandparents what life and his history is about, and the second is a goofy song his grandpa supposedly taught him – “How the heck gonna wash my neck if it ain’t gonna rain no more?”
“Suffer” is about the necessity of dealing with things you don’t want to deal with, with a little bit of political commentary mixed in.
The pair of records end with “Pardon Song” which reminds us that
“In the end it doesn’t matter, in the end we are just fools – if we haven’t made a lot of friends and broken a few rules.”
I know I’ve thrown a lot of lyric quotes in here, but for this sort of music, that’s the best way to explain it. Actually, the second best way. The first best way is for you to go listen to it yourself.