Dali Does Windows, Defenestration’s 1987 release, is a Perfect Album.
That’s a bold statement, I know, but every music fan has their personal list of Perfect Albums. Those are the records that are solid from beginning to end. All killer, no filler, as the DJs used to say. Skipping a song feels heretical. Perfect Albums must be listened to from start to finish. They hug your neck while they punch you in the gut. They wash through your spirit like a tsunami and leave you exhilarated and exhausted. Dali Does Windows wrings me out.
I was heavily into college rock music in the early to mid-1980s. Loving songs that weren’t played every 90 minutes by the local Top 40 stations lent itself to a hefty amount of tribalism. We were the outsiders, the ones who refused to fit in, the darklings. Seeing cheerleaders and football players wearing The Cure shirts in high school ran all over me. They hadn’t earned the right to wear them. They hadn’t been there from the beginning. Sure, you like “Why Can’t I Be You?” but where were you when “Primary” was released, huh?
Then college rock became alternative music, which then became mainstream, and then we got boy bands. What a world.
Of course, labeling an album as “perfect” is subjective, but this is not the time for quibbling over semantics. I am simply here to testify.
I didn’t hear Dali Does Windows until the early 1990s when I was working the night audit shift at a hotel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. With bills to pay and a rising sense of hopelessness, there wasn’t time to keep up a carefully constructed façade of coolness. I wore a polyester vest the color of Mark Henry’s retirement suit and someone else’s nametag, smoked too much, and waited for dawn to break so I could wearily drive home.
At least the security guard was cool. His name was Roger, and we had multiple conversations about geeky things. One late night/early morning, Roger slipped me an audio cassette copy of Dali Does Windows. “Take a listen to this,” he said. I did as Roger suggested, right there in the puny little mono tape player in the hotel’s back office.
Fat, brash guitar chords. Energetic drums with creative little fills. Bass lines that snaked around the bottom end with authority and grace. And that voice, that snotty, heartworn, gorgeous voice.
That was Tyson Meade I was hearing, an Oklahoma lad who later went on to form the revered alternative outfit Chainsaw Kittens. Meade sneered, howled, and mumbled his way through the Defenestration songs, which combined straightforward three-chord rock and roll with lyrics about drag shows and women without souls.
Bar none, “Back on the Ranch” is the saddest song I’ve ever heard. There’s a cracking longing in Meade’s voice that borders on despair. The song conjures images of neglected campfires and wind so cold that it cuts right through your warmest coat. “You’ll never come back and you never listen,” Meade sings, “and you just go to your grave.” Be still, my beating abandonment issues.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, “D.Y. Wanna (Bubblegum)” is one of the most joyous rave-ups ever committed to magnetic tape. Cheeky palm-muted guitar wiggles around, occasionally surprising the listener like a toddler jumping out from behind a kitchen island. The super-catchy chorus will rattle around in your skull for days or, in my case, years.
As many loved things do, my copy of Dali Does Windows disappeared, another casualty of strange situations and poor decisions. I tried to remember lyrics I once had memorized but found they had faded away. Not only had my copy of the album slipped into the ether, it seemed the album’s entire existence had as well. Years later, when I got a job managing a record store, I tried to place a special order for Dali Does Windows from our supplier. It could not be found.
This is not the place for a long discourse on music and spirituality, but I firmly believe that the songs you need come to you when you need them. I think you can hear the voices of your god over the radio or, sometimes, online. One night in a pique of maudlin reminiscence, I put out a call over the internet. Did anyone have the album? Had anyone even heard of Defenestration (not the British heavy metal band)? Was I alone in my Defenestration fandom? Boo-hoo, drink more, whatever.
The next day, someone (I don’t remember who and I wish I did) sent me a .zip file containing the album. Even though I was in a far different place in my life at that time than I was in the 1990s, Defenestration’s music still resonated with me and carried a solid emotional impact. It may have even helped me begin to reconcile with some terrible partial memories that lurked in the labyrinth of my mind.
I’m not saying Dali Does Windows will do the same for you. Listening to this album was not some kind of epiphany, nothing that set my feet firmly on the path of the righteous. But for the 30 some-odd years the album has been in my life, it has been a constant comfort. Some days, that’s all you can ask for.
Defenestration wasn’t around long. There aren’t a lot of photos of the band. Personally, I’ve only met two other people who have heard of the group. Defenestration is just another obscure rock outfit from the Great American Midwest, I suppose. The band hasn’t been completely forgotten, though. Some unknown hero uploaded the album to YouTube. Even though you can find Defenestration on some streaming services, as of this writing, Dali Does Windows shows no plays on Spotify. None. Zero.
I hope that changes.
Dali Does Windows is a tremendous record with a timeless feel. It could be released today and still sound modern. You know. Lightning in a bottle and all of those limp sayings. I implore you to listen to Dali Does Windows, all the way through without skipping a song, at least one time.
It may be a Perfect Album for you, too.