Friday, January 24, 2014

John Davis - Spare Parts

It's hard to believe from listening to the massive double record Spare Parts that its creator was once the other half of Folk Implosion. That name, particularly memorable for Lou Barlow, the second half of the unit that prompted a Top 40 hit with "Natural One" would have been a vital element in John Davis' press release, had he been gunning for any kind of potential interest, say a decade and a half ago.

And had he set out to release a record that's remotely memorable and intriguing.

But as it stands, Spare Parts has taken its own sweet time in arriving, and Barlow has either returned to his past in either Dinosaur Jr. or Sebadoh depending on the season, while Davis has pretty much walked a line of obscurity.

From the sounds of Spare Parts Davis seems hellbent on continuing that trend.

With song titles that average 6 minutes in length, it's clear that Davis is operating at his own pace and under his own control. There is nothing within Spare Parts that would closely resemble accessible, which in itself isn't an issue, but when you position your muse in hard to digest, free-form meanderings, it becomes hard to focus on the point of Davis' intentions.

His voice is not distinctive enough to gain the attention of any fan of drawn-out ballads and, more importantly, his lyrical approach certainly isn't compelling enough to hold interest. The arrangements seem to want to mirror the found instruments of a Tom Waits records, while instead they come across as lengthy work tapes of ideas and random prose of lost love, notebook therapy and descriptive observations.

Take "Blood Feud," which lollygags for five fucking minutes before unleashing three full minutes of pointless noises that serve no purpose other than to alienate listeners and completely erase the mood of backwoods imagery that came before it.

Occasionally, there's a bit of droning violin, acoustic guitar and even a few bits of pretty backing vocals from Mynabirds' Laura Burrhen, but all of this is positioned next to Davis' clear ambivalence towards providing listeners with any reason to continue tolerating such nonsense as the computer blips and beeps that suddenly show up on "Shine Upon Me Like The Moon." If I were to venture a guess, I'd say the noises appearance are to signify that the moon is in space, and weird beeps and blips always represent space in Davis' mind.

For the rest of us, they're mainly just annoying.

If you've got time for such nonsense, then be my guest. For me, an hour-long project that seems designed on presenting Davis as some kind of misunderstood multi-instrumentalist only becomes prey to the idiosyncratic moments that appear for no discernible reason.

Spare Parts is nothing more than a hodgepodge of elements that seem purposely curated only for the sole purpose of hiding John Davis in obscurity for another 15 years.

Mission accomplished.

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