Music

Damien Johnson shares the nuances of debut album ‘Girl’, track by track

We had the pleasure of chatting to alt-electronic artist Damien Johnson about his emotional and politically charged debut LP, Girl.

There’s a lot to digest in this 10-track record from Damien Johnson. To summarise our album review, it’s self-produced, industrial, fearless, vulnerable, compelling, and bursting with vocal hooks, but this is only scratching the surface.

Who better to run down the tracklist than the artist himself? We’ll hand you over to Johnson, who’s here the explain the lyrical and musical nuances of Girl.

Damien Johnson

Power

Power is arguably the heaviest track on the album and has elements of Rammstein in the musical delivery. It’s an overtly aggressive protest song that was initially triggered by my anger and disgust at the treatment of George Floyd but also included references to Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Scott Morrison. Effectively it is a song that stands defiantly in the face of social, economic and political systems that advantage the wealthy at the expense of the rest and says, ‘We will not tolerate this’.

Enemy

Enemy was birthed early in 2020 and originally began as a means of challenging the myth of redemptive violence – I.e the idea that violence can be used to end violence. As a pacifist, I get deeply disturbed by the amount of violence and aggression that gets used by people trying to assert dominance over others or suppress alternative views. I began writing this song to promote the idea that when we stop seeing each other as enemies or as threats, but rather as humans, like you and me, simply trying to find our place in the world, we can begin entering into a discourse that can bring about unity and peace.

 

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Love Anarchy

Love Anarchy is again another anthem to pacifist beliefs and values, and also my disdain for authoritarian government. The essential theme behind this song is that when people are moved by love for one another, they do not need to be controlled or subject to laws in order to live harmoniously and well together. The song is a homage to Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, where the highest level of moral consciousness is when one does the right thing, simply because it is the right thing, even when that goes against the laws of the government or the social expectations of the community – for example when Miep Gies hid Anne Frank from the NAZIs or when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. That is a Love Anarchy in action.

Crowd In My Hand

This is one of the most personal songs on this album and comes from a place of deep despair and hopelessness. It describes my experience as one trying to ‘make it’ as a musician, but never really getting ‘there’. I often feel overlooked as an artist, and afraid that all the time, energy, money and sacrifices I put into trying to get my music out there will amount to nothing in the end. Crowd In My Hand is both an honest cry of anguish and also a message to keep going.

 

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Your Woman

Your Woman is a cover of White Town’s 1997 hit, but with a darker, industrial edge to it. I covered this song to accompany a music video that I created that challenges transphobic attitudes in the context of dating. In a world where many transgender women are not seen as ‘women’, but rather as ‘men in dresses’ and treated with disdain and violence, I wanted to create something that would highlight the humanity and vulnerability behind the labels, and show that transgender people are no different than anyone else in their pursuit of love, acceptance, connection and respect.

Cello In A Fighter’s Hand

Possibly the most obscure song on the album, but easily one of my favourites. This song was actually written about a very specific person I know who was a semi-professional muay Thai fighter, and also a cello player. The song aims to convey the multiple layers of interests and complexities that exist with each of us that often go outside the basic expectations we may have of one another, and reveal the truth that humans can never be narrowed down to a ‘brand’ or ‘image’ or ‘limited set of dimensions’.

 

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Going Back

Every album needs a break-up song on it, and Going Back is mine. It was written at a time when I was longing for physical touch and connection after a breakup, and experiencing the emotions we all feel when we assume the other person is doing great whilst we are suffering in loneliness.

Moves to Make You Groove

This song is intended to be playful in delivery and somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but also indicative of the ‘femme fatale’ phenomenon, whereby a man may idolize a woman so much that he would die for her. Underneath the fun and flirtatious overlay is actually a commentary on the fact that we can often become more attracted to someone who rejects us or treats us badly and can become increasingly obsessive over someone we can’t have, always to our own detriment.

 

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The Valley

The Valley is the oldest song on the album and was written about one of my first visits to Brisbane’s iconic Fortitude Valley as a youth who had just moved to the city from Bundaberg. Similar to the previous track, it is intended to a fun song but also multi-layered as it speaks of both the beautiful bright lights and entertainment that can be found in Brunswick St, whilst not shying away from the issues of homelessness, substance abuse, and desperation that also exist between the music and frivolity in Brisbane’s most iconic entertainment precinct.

Melbourne Afternoons

Melbourne Afternoons is a stand-alone from the rest of the album and is musically distinctive from all other tracks. It is also a very personal song. It actually comes from a place of contemplating suicide. The song is my own reflection on my mental health and speaking as though I had died. Whilst the song is very sombre in message, it is also filled with hope as I tell myself to keep holding on. It will be ok.

Listen to Girl by Damien Johnson below: