How Ill Thy World is Ordered introduces a new wrinkle to Daniel Romano’s genre warping style: the Outfit.
At the risk of sounding like one of those outlets that write about the same pool of artists over and over, I fully acknowledge and own that this is the gazillionth time Daniel Romano has been mentioned on this site. But let’s be honest: who else in this country is writing and releasing music at Romano’s pace and consistent quality? Seriously, who? Please, tell me if there’s someone else because I’d love to throw some praise and attention their way.
His plan at the start of 2020 was to drop two records (the live album, “Okay Wow“ in March and a studio recording in September) and spend the bulk of the year touring. When the pandemic forced Romano to shelter in place, he pivoted to making “things” and releasing them into the world, specifically: two albums and an EP started pre-COVID; three albums of original music, a top-to-bottom cover of Bob Dylan’s Infidels, and a twenty-minutes-plus song featuring Tool drummer, Danny Carey, all completed post-pandemic.
And though Romano’s long been branded as “prolific” (a back-handed honorific that doesn’t always imply quality over quantity), nothing among his torrential flood of 2020 releases comes close to the wonders found on How Ill Thy World is Ordered. In terms of recording chronology, How Ill Thy World is Ordered took shape in a single day sometime after 2018’s Finally Free and before Romano and his stellar band, the Outfit, committed “Okay Wow” to tape in Scandinavia. It’s mind-boggling to think the coda to Romano’s 2020 run of records — an album that seemingly ties together the loose tendrils and exploratory tones of his mid-year releases — was conceived, completed, and scheduled to arrive before patient zero ever knew what bit them.
Pinning a genre on Romano’s sleeve has always felt like trying to catch a housefly with chopsticks, but How Ill Thy World is Ordered introduces a new wrinkle to Romano’s style warping: the Outfit. There truly is magical alchemy when Julianna Riolino (vocals), David Nardi (guitar), Roddy Rossetti (bass) and Ian Romano (drums) come together on “A Rat Without a Tale” and the equally blustery, bluesy title track. The Outfit manages the impossible: they make rock ‘n’ roll sound alive again. Add to the existing chemistry contributions from keyboardist Mark Lalama, vocalist Briana Salmena, and Victor Belcastro and Aaron Hutchinson on sax and trumpet, respectively, and the Outfit becomes untouchable.
Lalama and Belacastro are seasoned and well-respected musicians based in Romano’s native Niagara region, which plays into what Romano has known for years: the key to being a great band is feeling like a family. For the most part, he hasn’t looked further than his own backyard to assemble his stellar players, and that bond and familiarity practically oozes out of the beautiful baroque rock on “Joys Too Often Hollow” parts one and two. Some may dismiss positioning the two halves as the bridge between the vinyl album’s two sides as a gimmick, but it sits at the heart of how How Ill Thy World is Ordered operates. To paraphrase Gael Garcia Bernal’s Maestro Rodrigo from Mozart in the Jungle, if you’re going to play, play with the blood. Follow your instincts, fuck restraint. Play it like you only get one take (or in this case, three) and don’t leave anything out. You may end up with something as heartbreakingly pretty as closer “Amaretto and Coke”, as pulverizing as “Green Eye-Shade” and “First Yoke”, or as precocious as “Drugged Vinegar”, but you’ll never be boring.
Which is not something that can be said of many of Daniel Romano’s contemporaries. In the industrial music machine’s rat race, it increasingly feels like recorded music is more about placing profits ahead of creativity. Spotify and its ilk are not the sole cause of the music world’s illness, but a symptom of the greater malaise Romano has been trying to cure for years. The disease is conformity fueled by capitalism, and it’s created a new world pecking order where corporations prey upon people’s fear of inadequacy and irrelevance to make a buck. And yeah, maybe our name could just as easily be DANIELROMINIONATED instead of DOMINIONATED. To that, I say: I’d rather repeatedly sing the praises of mavericks like Daniel Romano and his Outfit than mouth along about mediocrity with the masses.