Yum-Yum: Dan Loves Patti (Omnivore Recordings)

When one looks at the history of major labels, it’s always amazing to see the existence of some bands and artists that disappeared into the ether without even really being known about in the first place.  We’re not talking about your obscure local band or musician, we’re talking about people signed to labels wooden international reputation and millions and millions of dollars in their coffers. Adding to the frustration about the obscurity about many of these artists is the fact that so many of them were clearly talented and deserved to be heard.  Dan Loves Patti is one such record.

You are forgiven if you’ve never heard of Yum-Yum, or of its leader, Chris Holmes. The “band” came about after a friend who worked for Atlantic Records heard a demo tape Holmes had put together of his recent recordings and encouraged him to develop it. With a quick recording contract thrown together, Holmes and friends began to work on an orchestra pop record that was equally indebted to the sunny sound of bubblegum pop from the late 60s and early 70s to the more modern alternative rock sound, filtered through the Progressive Rock of the late 1970s.

Though that description may sound  slightly hyperbolic, it really isn’t. Just take a listen to the opening track, “I’m Not Telling.” With the Mellotron coming straight out of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” a Baroque string section, and Holmes’ melancholic Alex Chilton-like vocals, it sounds like almost nothing else being made at the time ,while sounding oddly familiar. It is a sad song beautifully sung and arranged, and set the tone for the record, one that Holmes states was meant to be an homage to the great break up records of the past. Aside from his own personal issues at the time, the concept was partially fueled by the acoustic guitar featured on the cover, a vintage piece he bought used that had the phrase “Dan Loves…” followed by a list of scratched out women’s names. That melancholy mood was explored further on beautifully arranged songs such as “Cross My Heart,” “Jealous Of The Stars,” and “Words Will Fail,” all of which are served well with a glass of whiskey and a broken heart.

Thankfully, Dan Loves Patti wasn’t all misery and soppy strings. “Doot-Doot” (sadly NOT the Freur hit of the same name, though Holmes could have covered it quite easily and it would’ve fit the vibe) is an up-tempo quirky New Wave rocker that sounds exactly like The Rentals, “Apiary” is a heavy alternative rocker, while “Sister” is a fast-paced space rock number that sounds like Holmes’ main project at the time, Sabalon Glitz, with just a hint of Stereolab. Atlantic chose those first two songs as singles, and while they may not be totally representative of the vibe of Dan Loves Patti, they are certainly commercial minded and you could have easily slipped them on to alternative radio programming lists at the time.

It isn’t surprising that Dan Loves Patti wasn’t a commercial success, though it did meet with critical acclaim, so much so that Holmes put together a live band. Equally surprising is that Atlantic felt confident enough about Yum-Yum to offer Holmes the chance to make a second record. (This reissue offers a half dozen superb demos, but it’s not clear whether or not they were intended for the second album.) Unfortunately, that second album never came to pass, due to internal label changes. Holmes quietly retired the name and moved on to other things, most notably becoming a DJ whose most famous gig has been playing and programming the music before Sir Paul McCartney performances.

Although it’s sad that Yum-Yum almost instantly faded into obscurity, Dan Loves Patti’s destiny of becoming a rediscovered lost classic a generation later serves it well. It didn’t sound like anything of its time then, and two decades later it still doesn’t sound quite like anything else.

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