John Davis, formerly of the Folk Implosion, released his latest album Spare Parts October 27. There's quite a bit to talk about with this album.
As mentioned before, Davis was part of the '90s era lo-fi band the Folk Implosion. He's been involved with music with and without the band releasing his debut solo tapes, Stars and Songs, in 1993. Davis has a résumé that boasts solo LPs, singles, compilation works, and work with the Folk Implosion.
Let me just identify the elephant in this article before we get too far—this album is a tough listen. Davis is definitely a songwriter and a good one at that. He provides very interesting lyrical content on Spare Parts. The track "Southwest" merges visual worlds when discussing mesas and space. It's a bit creepy to be honest, but it's interesting. The tone throughout the album is pretty solid and unwavering as a means to yield a single story rather than a collection of stories. Eerie, melancholic, spacey, and grey are words that come to mind when listening to Spare Parts. It's almost as if David Bowie and Sigur Ros had an extraterrestrial child and shipped it off to Davis for permanent baby sitting.
It's weird. It's really weird. It's Bowie, Sigur Ros, Acid Trip, French Circus, Wim Delvoye weird. The only way to get through this album is to put comfort aside, strap yourself to a chair, and duct tape headphones to your head. Imagine A Clockwork Orange "treatment" scene for Alex. It's a bit like torture, just a bit less violent and a lot more uncomfortable. Besides from being extremely weird, this album is long. The shortest track is just under four minutes and the longest is just shy of ten. The opening track is eight minutes; if listeners can get past that, they might enjoy listening to the rest of the album ("might" being a really light word). That itself could be a difficulty for many a listener when delving into an unknown album.
Because the album is a test of the listener's attention, it makes it almost impossible to appreciate Davis' performance as a songwriter. This album has played five times and his story telling has been lost in the absurdity in his album. The space cadet, forgotten astronaut, poorly drawn self-portrait, that is traveling throughout Spare Parts seems to have become mute because of his surroundings. Maybe that was Davis' goal for this album—unfortunately, it's isolating the audience. Davis seems to overwhelm the listener with his "artistic" ability—sometimes that can be great, mind blowing, life-altering. Davis' art is a lot like the art of Wim Delvoye—someone will appreciate it—most people will just cock their heads and shake off the confusion to look for something else. Maybe Davis is a misunderstood genius. Maybe he's an overqualified minimalist. Maybe he's drawing stick figures and singing the Mona Lisa. Whatever he's doing on Spare Parts is bound to confuse listeners. Sure, the album is something soothing, something calm; but all the good in this album is held under water and drowned by all the bad.
With all that being said and finally out of my system—Spare Parts is not an album deserving to be shot to the bowels of Hell. It seems to be composed of spare parts itself—impressive work with what was done but definitely not something to write home about. The actual sonic quality of the album is nice: everything sounds clear and sharp. Davis put love into Spare Parts but listeners may not love it.
People who will be interested in Spare Parts will be imbibers of brain altering substances, space cadets, fans of the experimental/pop/folk genre fusion, and being completely lost in the music ("lost" as in "How the hell did I end up here and how the hell do I go back?" lost). I feel, if given five more years to listen to this, I could probably appreciate Spare Parts. As of now, this one goes to the "Done" pile and will only be thought about if someone else asks about it.
4. You Won't Cry
5. Blood Feud
7. Upon a Train
8. Shine Upon Me Like the Moon
9. The Wrong Tree
10. What We Are and What We Seem