In tradtional 20th century avant-garde music fashion, composer David First has decided to dabble in pop music. After all, that’s the way to bring your “unique” and “challenging” ideas to the masses, right?
David First has been around for about three decades now, and should probably know better. His new release, Universary, is essentially one of the most miserable prog-rock albums of all time, it’s literally like a Gentle Giant reunion album. First assumes that lyrics, preset drumbeats, and guitar solos make for a grand notion of “Pop Music,” and then rounds out the equation by overlaying his theories on microtonal (a school of science that plays with notes that don’t fall into the conventional scales of Western music) and drone music. The result, rather than being an surprising and challenging, just sounds like overlong elevator music.
It’s impossible to see how his peers, people like composer Phill Niblock and dreamy mastermind Thurston Moore, could possibly applaud this music. With a No-Wave band, some really fascinating pieces for Casio keyboards, and an opera under his belt, David First must understand that Universary is completely banal schlock, devoid of ideas, lyrical ability, musicality, or even a trace of admiration for the popular music tradition that he seems to mindlessly endorse for the sake of posterity.
We can, however, maybe applaud First for making a popular music album that truly annoys. When people like Jim O’Rourke, John Zorn, or Glenn Branca fuse elements of popular culture into their work, it comes across as being rather aesthetically pleasing, despite the intention of some kind of unpleasantness. First has transcended the experience of enjoying music. Way to go, Dave.
David First: http://www.davidfirst.com