Brian Dunne’s Loser on the Ropes is one of the sleeper albums of the year, a collection of melodic yet punky dissertations on finding the perseverance to grow old — if not up. “The Kids Are All Grown,” about facing your inner child, is a standout, but its sharp arrangement on the album leans more toward The Cars than the vulnerable vibes Dunne projects when he plays it live.
That didn’t sit right with the New Yorker, who, while in Nashville a few months ago, adjourned to Blackbird Studios to rerecord “The Kids Are All Grown.” With harmony vocals from Caitlin Rose (who dropped her first album in a decade last year with the triumphant Cazimi), the song now hit Dunne’s mark.
“’The Kids Are All Grown’ is my favorite song off the Loser on the Ropes record and one that has evolved in its personal meaning for me since I wrote it. Humans are always resistant to change, but I’m pretty confident that I’m the most resistant,” he says. “It’s essentially a song about how my inability to accept change is probably just a more subdued version of a childhood temper tantrum at the boardwalk. I don’t want to go home, I don’t want to grow up.”
Dunne is an expert at probing the baggage that comes along with maturity — namely, responsibility. Listen to “Nobody’s Coming to Get You,” a song he co-wrote and sings for Fantastic Cat, the (mostly) masked-and-anonymous feline supergroup that counts Dunne as a member. In that track, he daydreams about the time when he was just a mere passenger in the backseat of his mom’s car, watching the world go by.
In the new version of “The Kids Are All Grown,” he wonders if he’s already missed it. “Did I fuck up my life? Did I ruin the night?/Can I turn it around from here?” he sings before Rose comes in with her angelic harmonies.
“I wanted to cut a slightly more tender version after the LP came out, to shine a spotlight on the lyric,” Dunne says. “I asked Caitlin to come down and sing it with me. She has one of those unmistakable voices and I was really glad she let me borrow it for this song because she is a nice person and because I paid her a lot of money.”
Dunne is currently on the road with Fantastic Cat, opening a new run of shows for Low Cut Connie. Both he and the Cats will play select showcases at AmericanaFest in Nashville later this month before Dunn embarks on a solo tour of the Netherlands, where he had surprise success with the 2021 song “New Tattoo.”