You can’t kid a kidder

Kid Dakota’s life hasn’t been nearly as pretty as his album title suggets, but he’s not complaining

Nathan Hall

Kid Dakota, AKA Darren Jackson, is a trooper in every sense of the word. He survived a heroin habit that nearly killed him, saw his debut CD-R EP belatedly picked up by Low’s Chair Kicker’s Union label, dropped out of the University’s graduate program, had his songs used for the soundtrack of a horror movie for which he was never paid, and performed a heartbreakingly beautiful duet on live radio with folkie darling Brenda Weiler. Not bad for a twenty-something from Bison, S.D.

Jackson’s real life domesticity is a polar opposite of the reckless rock star image he portrays and glorifies in song and verse, illustrated in part by the blood-caked mug shot featured on the cover of “So Pretty.” The music makes feeling suicidal look sexy, self-destruction seeming almost hip again. Jackson’s aching, elongated delivery positively oozes suspicious resentment and growing distrust of a cold, cruel world that has done him wrong one too many times. However, once the amps are unplugged, the still recovering Jackson does not touch anything stronger than an ice-cold smoothie. Jackson is content to exorcise his personal demons on stage.

Jackson’s sprawling tales run the gamut of acid rain storm showers, unsolved Indian reservation murders, and casual sex gone horribly wrong. His emotional live shows, bursting with disturbed self-loathing doubling as a sort of primitive Catholic confessional, have perked the greasy ears of indie rock aficionados both locally and nationally.

Comparison to the tortured wailings of Elliot Smith and Songs: Ohia suffice, but Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” is probably a more accurate association. It is as if Elvis Costello was a classically trained Shakespearean actor who became depressed and cynical after his best gal betrayed him in a dream. He walls himself up in a decrepit boarding house, world-weary of a town full of damaged good personas, and slowly but surely goes completely insane.

The production work by Alex Oana, which stretched out over several months, is gorgeously shiny, with almost every note agonized over at some point or another. It is innovatively amazing as well, with ice cube trays clacking underneath dozens of layers of mechanical hums, multiple false starts and towering noise crescendos. Strap on some decent headphones and you can sense every desolate scrap of minutia, every conceivable detail carefully mapped out.

Jackson, who also plays for Alva Star and Camaro, is already nearly finished with his next record and is currently shopping it around to labels. He also is working on a 7″ that will be out sometime this summer. Currently, he is recording songs for compilations being released by Konku-rrent and Sponic.

In person, Jackson’s bookish looks belie a frail, downtrodden past you ought to tiptoe around if you know what is good for you. Although there is a vaguely positive glow about him now, you get the sense he has learned from his mistakes. Yet he doesn’t seem to regret all the great song material they induced.