“Because I can” is seldom a well-argued rationale for recording a double album, but it certainly works in this case. John Davis is the master of whatever ship he’s helming at the moment, and at present that ship is The Lees of Memory, a band that is pretty much, kinda/sorta but not exactly the reanimation of Superdrag relocated to Nashville, where Davis has resided for well over a decade. So here we are nary a year beyond the release of The Lees’ sophomore effort, Unnecessary Evil, and Davis & Co. are back with the monolithic The Blinding White of Nothing at All – no small feat at a whopping 24 tracks.
Blinding White is a lot to digest, and I’m wont to say that I’ve in fact digested it, either. What we have here is two dozen teenage symphonies to God. Whether said God is Brian Wilson or Ray Davies or God herself is an existential question that exceeds my powers, so I’ll stick to an analysis of what really matters most, the music.
John Davis is a damned fine songwriter. And Blinding White is as much a testament to his boundless talent as it is a time capsule of whatever infinitudes Davis is pondering these days. Sure, the lyrics grapple with Davis’ usual topics of love, longing and loss, all somewhat troubled by the subtlest hint of doubt and/or self-loathing that has shrouded Davis’ work for time immemorial. This is to say that while all of the tracks are eternally ear-pleasing, highest order pop/rock confections, there’s an eerie vibe of exquisite melancholia that haunts the whole affair.
So let’s get back to the “because I can” thing. I am of the opinion that almost any good double album could (and probably should) be pared down to yield one great album. (Robert Pollard, are you listening?) Whenever the production of content becomes the raison d’etre for expression, the end result tends to leans more toward pastiche than genuine artistry. And yes, there’s a wee bit of this syndrome on the album.
Of 24 tracks, only the Pink Floyd-styled guitar histrionics of “Last Thing I Wanted to Do” strike me as filler/overkill. Granted, it’s probably fun to record something like this if you’re a virtuoso player of any and every instrument like Davis, and he’s the captain of the ship. All told, though, a tally of 23 excellent tracks out of 24 (that’s 95.83 percent) is exceptional.
Yeah, it would be easiest to compare Blinding Light to the obvious ’60s antecedents of Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds. (And you sharp readers know I’m guilty as charged on the second count.) Yeah, the album is, uh, psychedelic. And yeah, it’s one of those albums where the studio is the instrument more so than the instruments themselves. My hunch, though, is that Davis wore those albums out decades ago and might have been tarrying more recently in The Kinks’ Something Else and Face To Face albums, both fine and fertile territories indeed.
Anyway, the album is a sumptuous feast of sound, a cornucopia of pop, the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow and all that. The only problem with such bounty is great songs are potentially elided just because of the sheer magnitude of the whole thing. Such an embarrassment of riches is a sweet affliction indeed. Davis has challenged himself, just because he could. And, by God, he did.
The Lees of Memory
The Blinding White of Nothing at All
[John Davis Brand Music]