David J proves his mastery of gothic rock
David J is the ex-bassist of English rock band Bauhaus and one of the prevailing and most consistently creative minds behind the success of the sub-genre of gothic rock. His commitment to the obscure style is extremely respectable, especially as he continues to push the limits of the genre and prove that there is much to be done within the bounds of the gothic on his solo projects. His most recent work, Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy And Allure, represents an excellent example of this. With limited problems, David J has once again proven that gothic rock done right is uniquely entertaining, even as the mainstream ventures further away from the sub-genre.
“Mosaic” is worrisome at first. Initially, it feels like a poorly executed version of gothic rock, but by the end of the album, it just invokes a sense of confusion, begging the question, “Why would someone open the album with this, when there are much better songs that could feasibly still make sense as an intro?” David J quickly moves past the flaws of “Mosaic” and shoots into a gorgeous, five-song streak of gold. Had ”Blue Eyes in the Green Room” been longer and less focused, it would’ve been reminiscent of the many great and meandering works of Mark Kozelek. “Baudelaire” then introduces David J’s mastery of string arrangements, followed by, “(I Don’t Want to Destroy) Our Beautiful Thing,” another lovely track in a similarly lovelorn vein.
Next comes the track that is literally called “Lovelorn,” a more uptempo take on the gothic instrumentation of the previous four tracks. Finally, the streak ends with “Clandestine Valentine,” which houses an otherworldly intro on what sounds like an accordion, a reserved guitar that recalls Phil Elverum’s most heart-wrenching Mount Eerie projects, and one of the best lyrical moments of the album: “I needed this fire to consume me/ and the brighter it burned, the deeper the dark.”
Unfortunately, David J’s instrumentation on the seventh track, “Purgatory and Perfume” quickly grows stale, and his attempts at spoken word fall short on the following track, “Migena and the Frozen Roses.” The second half of the album flies by, maintaining a high level of songwriting with few hitches, aside from a major lyrical misstep in “Copper Level 7” and the mediocre “I Walked Away From the Girl in Yellow.” David J continues to show off his mastery of the strings and delivers a show-stealing piano part in “Pre-Existing Condition.” He kills it every time he uses either string or piano arrangements as the centerpiece of a song.
David J elects to end the album with a somber final three songs, and employs some absolutely fantastic female vocals on the closer, “I Hear Only Silence Now.” It is incredibly satisfying to finally hear a female perspective after about an hour of David J’s lovelorn, albeit beautiful, antics. While this track was a great closer, it feels like a missed opportunity not employing this perspective earlier or more often on the album, especially when the vocals were this good.
David J manages to settle into his unique stylistic choices relatively quickly on this album, and surprisingly well. It probably helps to have so much experience with gothic rock. His lovely string arrangements were maybe the strongest part of the entire project, and never got old or felt like a crutch. Simply put, the album is excellent. While Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy And Allure may not be for everyone, those who have liked David J’s past work or the gothic rock genre as a whole are in for an absolute treat.