And now our moment of zen. Bill Madden comes from the school of topical folk rock with witty lyrics, warm production and heartfelt delivery -- which is all well and good, but the twist on Samsara's Grip
is Madden's conviction. He isn't just spouting new age rhetoric from his coffee-stained bar stool, swaying before an audience of sweatered suburbanite liberals and their lattes; he's living his beliefs every day. From his ten year vegan odyssey to his the prominently displayed links to Rock the Vote and The Global Fund on his web site, Madden's ongoing effort to better himself isn't limited to his music. It just happens to be his chief mechanism to better us, as well.
Freedy Johnston and Michael Penn have a kindred spirit in Madden, whose voice rings with rich emotion at every mention of "sex magick and wicca", "god's fine mess" and "idiot paradise / where every day's a fools' parade." He namedrops Boddhisatva and other Eastern philosophy touchstones while clinging firmly to his love for Dylan (Bob and Thomas, one suspects) and struggling with the injustices of his day-to-day life. The inherent paradox in Madden's work, and in Eastern philosophy in general, is summed up in "World Just Is", on which he observes, "The world just is what it is" -- a far cry from the call to arms of earlier tracks like the "Murder" and "Consequence of War". Then again, as darkness cannot exist without light, so, too does peace require strife -- or so the buddhas believe.
Madden's messages can be a bit heavy-handed, but he makes a conscious effort not to ram his points down our throats. When he's in doubt, he just turns up the amps and rocks, trusting that the path to nirvana runs through the dharma and distortion pedal in equal measure.