David J.: Not Long for this World

david j, not long for this world, bauhausDavid J.: Not Long for this World
David J., who in former lives has been a goth-rock pioneer (in Bauhaus) and an alternative luminary (in Love and Rockets), surely has some wisdom to impart, but he is running out of time. On Not Long for this World, he seems to ponder how to value the life of the performing artist. Moreover, he seems to explore the weight of an artist’s – any artist’s – legacy. What lessons can a life spent onstage teach? David J. seems confident that the question has merit, but is unsure how to answer it.
Belying his goth roots, he couches the album in a kind of funereal theatricality, right down to the album cover, which depicts him as Macbeth, soliloquizing to a skull before a velvet curtain, replete with cheaply rendered star glints. With their world-weary booziness, it is hard to imagine these songs played in any venue but a dilapidated theater. It is hard to imagine them being played to anyone but a distracted audience. In spite of this, they are performed with care and they are performed with passion and gratitude for any audience at all.
It feels like great care was taken in the ordering of these songs, like the blocking of a play. The curtain rises to the piano-driven “Because You’re Gone”, a simple, melancholic lament, mourning the fact that he has to live out his life on the losing end of a deal. The complexity increases as the album progresses, both in arrangement and tone. It becomes increasingly obvious that the questions posed here cannot be answered objectively and those answers will change under the changing conditions of those asking the questions. In a kind of play within the play, J. devotes a trilogy of songs to performers whose lives ended in tragedy: Hank Williams, Spalding Gray, and Jeff Buckley. Though heartfelt, these songs are overwrought, veering a little too close to life lesson territory and, on the Jeff Buckley piece, into awkward spoken word.
In an increasingly mediated world, any work of art is subject to an increasingly shortened period of scrutiny. Albums, to the extent that they are even physical anymore, are shelved after fewer spins. The artist has never been long for this world, but, more and more, neither is the art. Though it never lasted too long from the beginning, the audience to artist connection is shorter than it has ever been. Not Long for this World is David J.’s way of coming to terms with that. Like a worldly pickpocket, though, David J. has learned how to get what he needs from the whole process.
Rating: 8.0/10
MP3: David J. “Because You’re Gone”
Buy: iTunes

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