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Yesterday & 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 brigade. 

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.

CD Info 

David J - Estranged
Label: Heyday Records
Guitar Man, The
Mess Up
Pulling Arrows From Our Heels
Ruined Cities
Static Cling
In The Great Blue Whenever
If Anything Should Ever Happen To You
Ballad Of August And June, The
Bright In Your Absence
Trophy Wife
Arc Of Return
Time In The Sun
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online

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