& Today: David J
By Tim Byrnes
We break from our traditional Yesterday
& Today formula this time around to give you more of a "today" look
at David J and his remarkable new solo CD. His yesterdays include Love
and Rockets and Bauhaus but today David J shows that he is still growing
as an artist and Tim Byrnes gives us a glimpse into David's currently musical
preoccupation. - ed
My Name is David and I'm a Vampire.
(All) Hi, David!
Back in the 20th Century, David J was a
founding member of goth legends Bauhaus and continued on playing bass when
the band morphed into Love and Rockets after Peter Murphy's departure.
In these heady times both bands projected an aura of smouldering darkness
and no little romantic sadness. The werewolves were at the door of our
teenaged love affair with the self and both Bauhaus and L&R provided
the vampiric soundtrack. Time marches on and David J has more than kept
pace with the changing tenor of the times through his 7 solo records and
various collaborations with the likes of Tim Perkins and the great Alan
Moore on a series of spoken word records concerning the history of England
from an occult perspective. Such esoteric pursuits don't readily translate
to major chart success, but signify that what we're dealing with here is
a true artist, still experimenting and evolving with little or no concern
for the marketplace.
Such an approach, while laudable, doesn't
quite butter the biscuits, so to speak. David J has responded with Estranged,
perhaps the most accessible of his solo work. Most songs spring from a
bed of acoustic guitar ‘cowboy chords' and are sung in a homey, bedroom
voice. This self released CD, apparently financed by the artist himself
through the sale of personal property on ebay, takes the familiar themes
of the morally ambiguous narrator and his views on life and love and darkness
into friendlier realms. There's still a serious mind at work here, the
literate lyrics and bloody metaphors are still there, it's just that they're
couched in a poppier, brighter sound, like someone who's come out the other
end of a very dark tunnel with their soul, not only intact, but renewed.
The opening cut is J's second cover version
of the Bread classic The Guitar Man. It's a respectful, non-ironic take
on a guilty pleasure song from our youth, sung lovingly in J's cigarette
and ennui, world weary voice and elevated to celebration by the shining
guitar work of Dave Navarro. The poppy, clean guitars that open the next
cut Mess Up set up a happy tone over which J spins the tale of a true screw-up,
warning the object of his affection that he's gonna ‘mess up your life'.
But it's sung and played with such wholesome vigor that he knows, as we
know, that he will be forgiven. The lightness of the tune's arrangement
belies the dark subject matter, which should make it even creepier, but
somehow makes it, and the character singing the song, all the more lovable.
The closest J comes to retreating to the
electro-nightmare sound of his, and our, youth is on the aptly titled Ruined
City, with it's atmospheric synthesizer lines and rolling afro-goth drumming.
The remaining bulk of the record draws more from the alt-country well,
a strange curve, perhaps, but all the more welcome for it's lack of that
‘keep-your-distance' feel that pervades the more theatrical of the goth
Estranged sounds like the work of a happy
man. Neither mindlessly happy nor a weapon of mass distraction, Estranged
is the work of an artist who continues to grow and in times like these
that is no small thing.
J - Estranged
Guitar Man, The
Pulling Arrows From Our Heels
In The Great Blue Whenever
If Anything Should Ever Happen To You
Ballad Of August And June, The
Bright In Your Absence
Arc Of Return
Time In The Sun
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