David J.’s oeuvre cannot be overstated. His is one of the names permanently etched into the annals of goth and alternative history along with his bandmates in Bauhaus and Love & Rockets. What’s perhaps lesser known about him is his litany of solo albums, all an expression of his eclectic musical prowess free from the rock expectations of those bands. J’s latest offering, What the Patrons Heard showcases both his signature sound and explorations into new territory.
The album’s opener, “Lay Over and Lay” is a brisk, energetic track that nonetheless still preserves somber subtlety in the vein of The Shroud or Ikon. However, it’s exceptional as the only real rock track on the album, which then yields to lilting acoustic numbers reminiscent more of James Iha than standard goth fare. One notable departure is J’s cover of John Lennon’s immortal classic “Gimme Some Truth,” a protest propitious for these uncertain times with the artist stepping away from his sweet troubadour role to give a candid insight into his apparent views of current political and media trends, going so far as to include copious samples of a particularly controversial political figure. However, David J puts his own dark spin on the song with distorted vocals and programmed drums. In a similar vein is “His Majesty, the Executioner,” which is a narrative set over haunting music depicting a dystopic medieval scenario of life under a despotic potentate. The album continues with the theme of acoustic numbers, closing out with the memorable and beautiful “A Girl in Port” to sign things off.
All in all, What the Patrons Heard is a welcome offering from David J, who like his contemporaries in Bauhaus, readily shows a facet of his abilities that can be both stark and uplifting without having to conform to the strictures of post-punk and goth, while simultaneously not straying so far from the roots as to be unrecognizable. This is an album not so much for those who grew with British goth or Hollywood death/rock as much as for those who appreciate the value of the musicians’ breadth of expression.