Burlington singer-songwriter Ryan Fauber is a highly prolific individual. The 10 tunes on Greatest Hits are culled from more than 200 songs written between 1999 and 2005. Many are lengthy, quasi-poetic diatribes about the woeful state of the world. Others are ballads that achieve an intimate soulfulness despite their ragged edges. The result is a mixed bag of music.
The disc commences with the rambling "Who We Are." Fauber views himself as a kind of prose prophet, but his lyrics are often vague. "Political correctness in a self-destructing state / Mesmerized by lies that subliminally hate," he raps-sings over a clunky chord progression. It's a little like a poetry slam for paranoids. Still, he gets in a couple of mid-tune zingers: "We position ourselves, high, justified and fair / A Christian nation's bombs exploding in the air," he states. Testify, man.
"Dreams on a Train" is more effective, both lyrically and musically. Subtle guitar strums and spare keyboards frame Fauber's aching vocal performance. "Your bedroom is now a holding cell / Your eyes no longer burn / Your good intentions turn on you / Are you ever gonna learn?" he wails. Vocally, he bears similarities to Tom Waits, in his pre-carnival barker phase. One could have worse influences.
"When the government comes I'm gonna run / When the ending is near and the feeling is fear, I'm gonna run," Fauber howls on the appropriately titled "I'm Gonna Run." Loaded with striking, apocalyptic wordplay, the song fails to cohere musically.
"Lady Burns" suffers from a similar fate. Unfocused and aimless, its structure barely holds together. Only a few choice lyrics save the song from total disaster: "When I'm on fire, my veins are wires / Reacting to that lady liar," Fauber snarls.
"Prisoner Song" is a minor-key ballad with Dylanesque ambitions. Spare acoustic guitar provides skeletal accompaniment to Fauber's grim tale of possessive love. "I'm the king of the trash, I've got a beautiful rash / My thoughts are naked and raw," he sings icily. "The razor was heaven to me / I said, 'give me some eternity' / She said, 'It's close, but not the time.'" The harrowing prose and effective instrumentation make for the disc's finest moment.
Greatest Hits is a challenging listen. Yet somewhere between the proselytizing rants and unwieldy poetics, there exists considerable creativity. Here's hoping Fauber learns to hone it.