You can take classes in composition, you can take classes in string arrangement, in writing charts — you can even take DJ classes, but you can’t take classes to acquire natural talent. Bart Davenport is trained, but I don’t mean he went to music school. He’s a songwriter. And like clock makers, the only way to get trained in being a great songwriter is to listen to the great songs of all times and take them apart and put them together again. And trust me when I say that Davenport has listened to some of your favorite songs (and definitely ALL your weird uncle’s favorite songs), he has popped them open and seen what makes them tick.
Davenport’s been around the block. He fronted the bands the Loved Ones and Honeycut, whose “Exodus Honey” was the Fripp-type intro to the 2007-era Mac operating system and has been releasing solo material years and sticking to the trend-resistant genre known as “power pop”. Let’s face it, power pop can be a bit of an albatross around an artist’s neck. The restrictions of the genre can render lesser artists / songwriters boring. But Davenport’s brand of pop comes from a lineage of only the best power pop artists. Davenport’s new full-length release, Physical World is informed by pop luminaries from Badfinger to Rundgren, the Smiths to the Raconteurs — running the gamut of powerful up-tempo to 70s despair, sometimes almost deranged soft rock.
Physical World features some classic tuneful rock like “Dust in the Circuits”. It’s driven by the soft layers of guitar rhythms, but what really stands out are the slick harmonies. This city has a history of group singing and new L.A.-er Davenport’s airy vocals harmonize in the classic tradition. More Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young than Beach Boys, Davenport and band’s singing sweeten up often thorny lyrics. For instance, on “Loop In My Head,” a song about lifting oneself from depression, Davenport repeats over and over, “I have had enough” until you realize: DUDE HAS HAD ENOUGH! It’s a catchy tune with a steady back beat, strong guitar chords and jangly notes juxtaposes tense lyrics with a sweet melody — the backbone of power pop. He sounds stiffer on “Loop in My Head,” tense but hopeful. Davenport is vulnerable to the bleak circumstances around him, yet he confronts them head-on with a catchy hooks and jangly guitars. That’s probably the best way to confront that, huh? Davenport knows his sound requires the classic all-power-pop bands cloth themselves and has learned not to fuck with a good thing. Some might say that Physical World borders on homage. I say you can’t do power pop unless it’s hard to tell what decade the record was made in.
Like the Brendan Behan before him, Bart Davenport has found a way to make something with enough rules to make innocuous and fill it with feeling so that it averts cliché.
Words by Stephe Psi-X
Artist: Bart Davenport
Album: Physical World
Label: Lovemonk / Burger Records
Release Date: March 4, 2014