Tony Molina: Dissed and Dismissed

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Dissed and Dismissed” (Slumberland Records, 2014), a solo effort by Tony Molina of Caged Animal, comes with a gentle warning on the label’s website: The entire record runs to just under 12 minutes. Twelve songs, 12 minutes, CD or LP, with no bonus tracks. I guess they’ve had some complaints about it being so short. Four of the songs on “Dissed and Dismissed” are under a minute. Four more run to just around a minute. The album reminds me of the book Not Quite What I was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure from Smith Magazine (HarperCollins, 2008) and the writing challenge of creating personal memoirs in six words. Like the tiny memoirs, each of Molina’s songs seeks a rush of emotion using speed and simplicity.

The challenge of brevity in any artistic field is finding a way to pack a very short space with as much feeling, intensity, and completeness as you can before the time limit is reached. I have no idea if Molina imposes a time constraint on himself as a way of shaping his songwriting, but listening to these brief songs, they each feel complete and unique. Try it some time, to write a song or a memoir with brevity as your goal. It becomes an exercise in essentials.

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“Dissed and Dismissed” invites an attraction based on novelty more than on pure expression. Admittedly, I found after a couple of spins of my red vinyl edition (now out of print) that I felt satisfied that I’d internalized the feeling of this record. I wonder if this material has a longer-lasting impact in live performance. It doesn’t seem to invite longer play.

In Molina’s battle to weld his song lyrics with his guitar “riffage,” the guitar wins. It’s no secret that I see lyrics as being as important as song composition and structure. There may be some intentional mock exaggeration and 1990s slacker whining in Molina’s writing, but the lyrics just don’t seem too important in these songs. It’s the storms of sound that draw the attention and remain the most memorable here.

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Molina is a restless man, working with his band, Caged Animal, even as he cranks out solo projects like “Dissed and Dismissed.” There’s a “first thought, best thought” Buddhist presence feeling on this record, with Molina balancing the need to create large amounts of material and trusting the potential of the moment. He makes it seem easy. Taken as a sprint, “Dissed and Dismissed” is a short, sharp window into the mind of a recording artist in a hurry who is perfecting the art of the furious moment.