Music Reviews

David Singer & the Secret Science

Civil Wars

Deep Elm

Civil Wars finds David Singer & the Sweet Science exploring the fault lines that exist in any relationship. Singer explores the slow dissolution as love turns sour and the strange sense of vertigo that mingles regret, bitterness and a longing for revenge. He blends an awareness of the internal criticism that underlies any failed romance and yet allows these feelings to shimmer in arrangements that sparkle. At times he approaches the style of a latter-day Elvis Costello with his mixture of pianos, string arrangements and even a trumpet.

What separates these songs from the countless other bands mining the same strata of loss and pop is Singer’s considerable talent as a lyricist with his commensurate attention to detail. On the opening track, “Everything I Should Forget,” he attempts to catalog and dispose of the detritus of a relationship: “You left some stuff behind/a book of matches from the place we went that time/A credit card receipt, a crossword puzzle book with every page complete/and then a thought came over me/I had a flash so suddenly/I took a box and labeled it/Everything I should forget and made it fit.

Or, on “It’s a Miserable Life for Everyone,” Singer crafts a series of vignettes as various characters realize the truth in the song’s title. Consider these lines: “They spread out all their possessions on the floor/They took turns selecting things they swore/They’d share forever more/He wished that he had written his initials in his books/She took some things he wanted out of spite/He wondered if he married her for love or for her looks/His mother had been right/’Remember this my son/ It’s a miserable life for everyone’.

Yet, one should not mistake these tracks as all doom and gloom. His lyrics are exquisitely balanced by a pop sensibility that offsets the bitterness of the words with a clean pop sheen. Of course, credit is due to his talented band, The Secret Science, that flesh out these tracks and steer them well clear of Leonard Cohen territory. As brilliant a foil to him as Crazy Horse is to Neil Young, they display the proper sense of restraint allowing the songs to flare a muscle when necessary or withdraw and let the lyrics hang in one’s consciousness. Civil Wars is a solid album that reflects an attention to detail that wears its heart on its sleeve and isn’t afraid to sound pretty.

Deep Elm Records:

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