Adolescents are Adolescents Forever

A review of "Friends are Friends Forever"
by Konstantin Levin

The latest Russell David release does not deserve the time it takes to read this review. If you can resist the horrific details, then stop now, and forget you've ever heard the name Russell David. Go watch some reruns on t.v. That's my advice. Your life will be better for avoiding this self-proclaimed "artiste" entirely. However, if you're the kind of person who needs a reason for such avoidance, then read on:

"Friends are Friends Forever" is the eighth installment in the seemingly never-ending torment perpetrated by David and his self-produced non-profit organization, Simple Music. Since 1994 we have been bombarded with album upon album, song after song, presenting the same graceless pretense. We've never been quite sure where he learned the three guitar chords, but David's relentless, soul-deadening reliance on them, has proven--well beyond our need to be convinced--that the cretin who first taught him should be taken behind the nearest building and pummeled with a stick. Let's face it--Russell David is not a talented person. Russell David should not be involved in the arts. Instead of making photocopies in some locked room, or asking patrons if they wish to "Super Size" their order--as evolutionary order would dictate--we have a Russell David who is strangely audible, artificially relevant, the owner and brain behind one of the most inconsequential music houses in the world. A man who, every year, out of his own pocket, insists upon hacking out an album, and unleashing the results upon unsuspecting listeners.

Which brings us to the monstrosity at hand--the aforementioned 13 song opus, entitled "Friends are Friends Forever," David's insipidly saccharine, frustratingly shallow, offering for the year 2000. For those who have heard previous Russell David music, the latest addition can be summed up simply: more of the same. If you enjoyed the soulless, stilted, rambling of his previous work, you'll love this. "Friends are Friends" covers ground we've all seen before. The sensitive artiste struggling against the heartless world, suffering for the sake of beauty, the epistemological confusion of trying to live an honest life in the face of moral ambiguity, blah, blah, blah. Russell David seems to be arrested (or perhaps just arriving) at these turgid would-be-transcendental understandings. With songs like, "Uncaused Cause" we see David's infantile mind struggling to grasp issues he feels are significant. He ponders territory ritually steamrolled with use by every 12-year-old with the slightest inkling to be a "poet." The listener feels anxious at each awkward phrasing. We know the next line before it's spoken. For a moment it seems eerily familiar, until we realize that we wrote this poem too--many years ago--only we didn't feel the need to recite it into a microphone, and pass it off as original.

Other songs (e.g. "Speechless," "Southfield") conjure more of David's favorite subject: unrequited love. Again, with development seemingly arrested in adolescence, we hear the stories of our own blind failures in romance. David blathers until his sophomoric rhetoric reaches a sort of rythmic, hypnotically absurd, dreamstate. This element of his work--his ability to twist even the most expressive words into meaningless monotony--is quite interesting (though at the same time, one is tempted to ponder how he can relentlessly churn out such solipsistic, mind numbing, drivel with a straight face). Upon closer inspection, David is not quite as stone faced and softhearted as he first appears. Caught in the netherworld between shameful pop and droning tribal, alterna-spoken word, David is fond of "self-depreciation" (or exaltation, as the case may be) via thinly veiled, and most often stale, metaphor. You can practically hear the self-satisfied delusion in his voice as he sings, "I know I deserved it everytime, I asked for exactly what I got" (as if Michael Jackson hadn't already exposed this fallacy with the breakthrough 1987 album, "Bad"). Even DavidŐs attempt at personal deconstruction falls flat with dried motif and embarrassing over-exposition. One wonders how he sleeps at night, or how his heart finds the will to continue beating.

Sonically, the album is just as roughshod and amateurish as his previous work. It's as if a microphone were set in a child's room, while some brooding manchild bangs away on a guitar chord, reciting wilted, self-obsessed, lyrics (made all the more insipid by their attempt at pedantic humor). To heighten our sense of frustration, David mimics the phrasing and inventive genius of true artists, such as Lou Reed and Nick Cave. He strains to dredge up some of the intensity of Cave's broken heart, and Reed's sense of urban defeat, but with such utterly pathetic delivery, the result is overtly laughable. But alas, David does not intend this to be a comedy record. He intends it to be utterly severe, a sort folk rock answer to the Goth movement. And therein lies the ironic humor.

The Simple Music creed reads, "Where Talent Dies, Enthusiasm Begins." David and his cohorts may claim to believe this, but no amount of self-promotion, sophomoric justification, or money, can make this maxim true. I plead with Russell David and Simple Music to stop this needless artificial damage to supply side economics. Put down your instruments of torture, and spare us from further intended harm. Let this be the last we hear from you. The sensitive people of the world entreat you. Please. Stop.

Konstantin Levin is a freelance journalist/musician. He lives and works in Prague, Czech Rebublic.