Thursday, September 27, 2012

David Usher: "Songs From the Last Day On Earth" (album review)

When I saw the stats on David Usher's solo career I was taken aback.  Seven solo albums?  I thought three tops.  Four Junos?  Wow.  I was sleeping under a rock somewhere.

On October 2nd Usher returns with his eighth solo album Songs From the Last Day On Earth.

The album is a dozen adult alternative radio-friendly rock offerings, this time with a more stripped down sound.  The cascading opener "See the Stars" makes that clear.

For someone who's had such a successful career Usher has some mighty bleak lyrics.  More than one track, including "Lonely People", refer to cutting, and the references to depression and loneliness are innumerable.

The arrangements are fairly shadowy as well.  "City Of Light" features production that immediately drew to mind the Grapes Of Wrath classic "All The Things I Wasn't".  Usher's vocals wrench hard, but ultimately fail to move you.

Songs like "Bitter Pill" and "Winterstorm" are built around Usher's distinctive, emotive voice.  The arrangements grow predictably from a melodic introduction into a sterile whirlwind conclusion.

Stepping out of his grunge/emo crossover comfort zone, Usher gives us a sweet piano near-waltz on the standout "Stay".  It's predominantly Usher and a strummed guitar on "All These Simple Things", until he decides that understated is not an option and reverts to his typical ending.

In the grand scheme of things though, these changes in sound are incremental.  This could just as easily have been Usher's first post-Moist record rather than his eighth.  The songs still follow a fairly rigid formula and, after time, begin sounding pretty much alike.  It's really an album for diehard fans, or for anyone who doesn't own another David Usher record.

David Usher plays the Mod Club in Toronto on November 9th.

Best tracks: "Stay", "All These Simple Things"

Track listing for Songs From the Last Day On Earth:
  • See the Stars
  • Rice Paper
  • Winterstorm
  • City of Light
  • Lonely People
  • Operator
  • Stay
  • Bitter Pill
  • Burning Bridges
  • All These Simple Things
  • Partir Ailleurs
  • Repondez-moi

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