Welcome to the Doomtown

When you take a day off, get up early. Believe me. You’ll be happier.

Again time to reference the New Amsterdamer, in that the included short story by Edward P Jones delivers unlike most; depth, moving, entertaining, skillful like a stained glass window; not groundbreaking, as its style owes much to Garcia Marquez, but what doesn’t; Rushdie made a whole career out of running GGM’s pockets. Jones’s prize winning The Known World, an impressive if plot-light historical novel, satisfied me like few novels lately, so this shouldn’t have surprised me. But I hadn’t cracked open his shorter work yet. Now I will. As soon as I’m done with some Swedish crime and the third installment of Madison Smartt Bell’s series on Toussaint L’Oveture and the Haitian slave rebellion of the late 18th century. Which might be a while, since I’m not well rested and probaly won’t be until 2024.

I’ve got nothing against anyone seeing the new Oliver Stone flick. But I won’t be there. I saw it once already, and that was enough.

We’re gonna get lost in that lost 80s way that might make you groan, the ooohhh man I remember that, and then you may as well wish you hadn’t.

Boomtown, the only album by David & David, arrived in 1986 and dominated NYC-area classic rock radio and made a dent on MTV. It was the only thing not on WFMU that I could tolerate. And then it grew on me*, and I bought the vinyl copy I’m playing now. Much of it is absolutely stupid. It hasn’t aged well, either. But I keep going back, and maybe because there’s something there that hasn’t been mined by current acts and should be, and harvested.

*I should add here that I might not have critical distance with this album. The title track resonated thematically for me that year (especially its intended sarcasm) when my parents moved us to a new town far from where I had spent most of my life until then. I was a teenager. It was difficult. I did not make friends as I thought I would. I spent time alone with music and words. But I turned out alright, what with the physics PhD and the job at Los Alamos. By senior year, I was in a band. That’s my Behind the Music in its entirety.

That title track, “Boomtown,” stood out for it’s gloriously masturbatory guitar opening and ending, easily straddling that fine line, between clever and stupid, from the start. Baerwald restrains himself to clearly phrased talk-singing but for the chorus, offering a set of LA characters working out lives long past any promise; it’s the tired eighties songwriting cliche of vignette storytelling, but Baerwald bested its higher profile practicioners (Springsteen) with better detail and less sympathetic writing, especially the sarcastic “welcome to the boomtown” chorus, and lines like “she keeps rings on her fingers/marble on her floor/cocaine on her dresser/bars on her doors” or “now he smokes much to much/got a permanent habit /deals dope out of Denny’s/keeps a table in the back.” I was 15. It’s grittiness made it seem more authentic than “Glory Days.” It was the Jim Thompson to Springsteen’s John Irving.

David & David – Welcome to the Boomtown

The rest, save maybe two tracks, is impressive for it’s consistent quality, despite dated production. The depressing title theme continues, as wasted lives dominate “Swallowed By the Cracks,” a serious drinker’s fable, the apocalyptic “River’s Gonna Rise,” and the heartbreaking dissolution of a relationship in “Being Alone Together.” “Swimming in the Ocean” remains a favorite. Baerwald passes between baritone and falsetto while spinning a necrophilic-overtoned tale of a narrator experiencing an out-of-body experience while having sex with a ‘long dead love.’ He compares it to “swimming in the ocean,’ but methinks he doth protest too much. It also earns a special prize for the feat of sneaking a Shakespeare phrase — although I wanna say Wordsworth –into the song without waking pretension (“like a double backed beast”).

David & David – Being Alone Together

David & David – The River’s Gonna Rise

David Ricketts, guitarist, producer, instrumentalist etc, went on to produce and marry Toni Childs, I think, but did little else since. The other D-name made more of a profile splash, being the David Baerwald who earned a nice songwriting penny via Sheryl Cro–I won’t allow her name to ever be fully written here (Ricketts worked with her too.) She’s gabbage. Baerwald’s solo work is interesting from a writing standpoint, but his frequently mis-used baritone and poor choice of mainstream folk-rock styles usually bored me to violent cassette smashings.

Again, this stuff may be hard to swallow for it’s very 1986-ness. That’s probably more than ever needs to be written about David&David. And I apologize for not having “Swimming in the Ocean” on hand in electronic form.

Monday.

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7 thoughts on “Welcome to the Doomtown

  1. Nice post–and nice to hear “Boomtown,” which I hadn’t in…gee, I’d guess two decades. But really, do you have to slag off Sheryl Crow in the process? (Oops, I spelled her complete name–sorry…) I mean, hasn’t the poor girl been through enough this year?

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  2. This is one of my favourite albums, I suppose at least partially because of the memories it stirs from when I first heard it but I’ll vigourously defend it musically too.It seems they had one good album in them and no more, so left it at that. A lesson for many a band to learn.

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  3. It’s true David &David were good for one record, which many other bands should have emulated – but I’ve always wondered why they didn’t make another – there was more there. They could make one now.

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  4. Your ability to ferret out what I thought was forgotten amazes me. I’m about to leave town for a week, but I’ll post a couple favorites from Baerwald’s solo work when I return (along with “Swimming in the Ocean”). Thanks again!

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  5. Just a little more about the Davids …Baerwald co-wrote much of the music on Susanna Hoffs’ self-titled second solo album. He wrote a song for Moulin Rouge. It also looks like he co-wrote a song for Jill Sobule (“Supermodel”) and did a few other songwriter-for-hire things.Ricketts actually co-wrote some of the Crow material, and he co-wrote a song on a Robbie Robertson solo record, as well as another for Katey Sagal. Yeah, the lady from Married With Children.The David & David record does sound really dated … I notice most people don’t mention that Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA also sounds really dated. It just doesn’t hold up (just listen to the lame-o keyboards on the title track). Not that the songs are so bad, but it just sounds so … ’80s.

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  6. Sounds like Ricketts and Baerwald have made ok money. I’m sure that Moulin Rouge $ paid some bills, if he has any. Sagal was a longtime cabaret performer, no? I think, in that world, she might be the real thing. I could be wrong. Did Bud make an album? I’d buy that. Yeah – Born in the Usa does die a dastardly 80s death via it’s keyboards. I feel like I’m riding my bike to the town pool when I hear ‘Downbound Train.” Which isn’t so bad. The other songs make me remember being in math class. Which makes me want to Kill.

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