Lonely People of the World, Unite!
If the triumph-against-adversity stories surrounding Lonely People of the World, Unite! are to be believed, then Devin Davis’s noteworthy solo debut owes its very existence to loneliness. After moving from Florida to Chicago in 1999, Davis had trouble finding likeminded musicians to work with and so spent two years in midnight isolation at his home studio or snatching unbooked time at Chicago’s ACME Recording, where he worked as an engineer. Apparently the disc itself was never even intended for a commercial audience. It was only supposed to be his musician’s calling card.
A lonely person attempting to rally all sorts of lonely people, he inhabits in his songs different narrative personas: a hapless down-and-outer pleading with the Iron Woman of the eponymous opening track, an altruistic itinerant turtle, a desert island castaway, a lovesick dreamer caught in some kind of capitalist nightmare. Davis pulls off this hat-switching exceedingly well, always credible and never giving over to the tediousness of self-pity or getting mired in gloom. “Iron Woman” is punchy American roots rock in the Superdrag mode, embellished with shouts, group choruses and a squealing sax solo performed by Davis himself. And like most of the tracks on Lonely People, it prides itself on concision. Only “Cannons in the Courthouse” dares to flout the conventional three-minute running time.
“When I Turn Ninety-Nine,” another one of the many album highlights, combines raunchy fuzz guitar with organ and trombone while Davis’s narrator shuffles around in madness’ alternate reality. On the ballad “Turtle and the Flightless Bird,” Davis renders his lyrics with a natural, spoken quality, preserving here the fluid seesaw rhythm of the song without forcing the words to maintain strict line breaks and meter. Although his fairytale dreaminess on this track is genuine, elsewhere his cynicism is something to be savored — viz. the hard-rocking “Transcendental Sports Anthem”: “Look up there in the sky/at the flocks of boy bands flying by…My oh my, can they sure play/I saw a new one just today/singin’ ‘We’re the young generation/ and we’ve got nothing to say’ (with a musical nod to The Monkees, the boy band of their day, in these last lines).”
Half-buried near the end are the bluesy “Paratrooper with Amnesia” and “Giant Spiders,” the closing line from which gives the album its title. Neither of these is worth mentioning except to call attention to one of Lonely People‘s rare lulls, though the piano of “Paratrooper” in particular does give the disc a bit of stylistic diversity. Fortunately, “The Choir Invisible” and “Deserted Eyeland” wrap up the album on a strong note, if not exactly the power pop frenzy of “Iron Woman” and “Moon over Shark City.”
With any luck, Davis’s clarion call should reach all corners of the globe. This is enjoyable, often exhilarating stuff, enough to pull any despondent loners out of themselves and set their fingers drumming and toes tapping.
Devin Davis: www.devindaviswebsite.com