Published on January 14th, 2018 | by Chris Crash

Album Review: Darius Koski “What Was Once Is By and Gone”

review by Chris Crash

If you were a punk in the 90’s, there is a good chance that you’ve come across Swingin’ Utters and their incredibly exciting music. You are absolutely missing out if you haven’t, as they released several must-own punk albums that have a style that was fast paced and mixed in some fun bluegrass sounds. If you were a fan of the twangier cowboy music bits strewn about their songs, then there’s a good chance that you’re going to dig the latest solo record by one of the major brains of the Utters, Darius Koski. What Was Once Is By And Gone, his latest album released on Fat Wreck Chords, is a fun compilation of folk and bluegrass tracks that makes up a nice gateway for punks entering the world of Americana music.

  1. Black Sheep
  2. Old Bones
  3. Stay With Me
  4. A Little Buzz
  5. Because He’s Beautiful
  6. Stupid Sentimental
  7. Yes I Believe
  8. Soap Opera
  9. The Observer
  10. A Fresh Glass of Nothing
  11. A Version
  12. Dead Ended Days
  13. Imitation Tala
  14. Little Johnny
  15. Tangled Chords
  16. Another Man

Koski certainly isn’t the first punk rocker to make a solo album of stripped down roots music, but considering that these influences have been plastered all over the Utters’ classic albums, he made an album that I feel can be accessed the most easily if you’re already a fan of the band. Rockabilly stompers like “Because He’s Beautiful” and “The Observer” have the same exact snappy energy you would expect from a track off your favorite skate punk CD-R mix, and I even had no trouble imagining twangy & slower-tempo songs like “Black Sheep” and “Dead End Days” on the same album as something like “The Green Glass” or “Tell Them Told You So”. These almost feel like Utters songs with all of the punk rock appendages surgically removed, so you get to more directly experience the pure charisma that makes all of Koski’s songs so enjoyable even without the bratty punk allure.

The rest of the album is rounded out with more subtle songs that show Koski exploring new ground and creating rich fresh sounds. “A Fresh Glass Of Nothing” sounds almost like a sea shanty played by seamen on a ship’s fantail during a long journey, “Old Bones” is a sweet song with a sweet jangly keyboard lingering front and center, and “Another Man” is a straight forward acoustic guitar track that meditates on looking inward while getting older. There are even some hauntingly atmospheric instrumental tracks, like “A Version” with its creeping organ and blues trumpet.

There are a good amount of well-written and standout tracks, but I couldn’t help but feel that this album did not have a fully cohesive tone that really made everything gel together while listening from beginning to end. Each song unmistakenly has that sound that we expect from Koski’s songwriting, but this feels like two separate projects with two separate tones mixed into one album. I hear this very clearly when the country bluegrass song “Dead End Days” sort of jarringly leads directly into “Imitation Tala”, a breezy & ethereal song that would fit right at home on The Who Sell Out. While they are both great songs, they represent how this album crosses the line from eclectic to slightly clashing. That being said, I’d love to see these sounds explored more on future albums.

I couldn’t resist being thoroughly charmed by What Was Once Is By And Gone, at the end of the day. It’s the type of album that always piques my interest: a personal passion project by an artist I love that shows the world what makes the creative side of their brain tick. I’ve been a fan of Darius Koski’s music since I remember first buying CDs and failing miserably at skateboarding, so hearing this more nuanced and introspective album at a later stage of my life gives me this wild feeling that I’m growing up with him. This is also a great way to whet your appetite for more country music in your life, which gets an unfair reputation far too often. A good album that’s definitely recommended…a perfect example of our punk rock heroes showing new sides to their creativity.


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About the Author

Chris Crash

32, San Diego, CA Chris lives for the thrill of exciting and dangerous music. Give him an ear to gush about his favorite songs from Japan, and he'll probably become your best friend. Ingenious and ingobernable.

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