Garza is part of an endangered species — songwriters with an individual musical voice and an overflowing quantity of talent across the board. Like many endangered species, the threat comes from a destruction of habitat, in this case the razing of radio in order to make room for the musical equivalent of mass-market mini-malls and fast-food joints, leaving little room for unique and inviting sounds such as his. This is something Garza seems well aware of, making more than passing reference to the fact in “Drone” and “Say Baby,” the first two tracks on here. With lines like “used to start fires, used to harmonize with the stereo, now it’s just drone” and “soul is a four letter scam, DJ’s won’t spin your jam unless you say baby baby baby baby,” the songs serve as a searing indictment of the current state of affairs. Given the acrid tone of these songs (and several others on the album), it’s surprising that Garza remains on a major label that seems to be content to release his records with little fanfare or promotion. Perhaps there are contractual obligations at play.
But none of this seems to affect the sheer musicality of Overdub, which continues Garza’s tradition of great songs, catchy hooks, a trembling and quite personable falsetto, and inventive production. A bit more “rock” than previous outings, Overdub sometimes sounds like an effort to placate dumb-eared record executives, but this is done without Garza sacrificing anything — he simply seems to let the rocker out. For example, “Crown Of Thorns” features a pretty straightforward drums-bass-guitar bass attack, but also highlights Garza’s magic warble and stream-of-consciousness lyrics that seem to waver between religious and sinful. “Too Much,” a song that dates back from his independent days, makes a return with different production but with the same delicate melody and hearbreaking lyrics: “Can’t we try to work it out, there’s got to be a better way/I’d give you all of my tomorrows for one of your yesterdays.” As an added bonus, the CD includes MP3s of demo versions for all the songs — definitely lo-fi, but definitely David Garza. A very nice extra for fans.
Overdub is a fine, fine record, as good as any Garza has released (and they’ve all been fine, fine records). By now, Garza seems to have realized what many a critic realized upon release of This Euphoria, his first record for Atlantic — he’s too talented for major label success. In his inimitable fashion, he’s written about it, exorcised those demons from his soul, and entertained mightily while doing so. I’m not giving up hope that those major radio station music directors with an actual ear for music will stick their necks out and give Garza the opportunity and success he deserves, and that someday his music will be blaring from radios across the nation. In the meantime, you can take matters into your own hands and make Overdub blare out of yours.