The blue, red and white light bulbs swung from a wire directly over the seated musicians at the David J. show Monday night at the 9:30 club, taking the place of the usual spotlights and creating a shadowy, bohemian mood. This was to signify that an earnest and hip show was taking place, but unfortunately the lights were far more interesting than the music.
David J., the bass player from the British band Love and Rockets, strummed an acoustic guitar, joined by Max Eider from the Jazz Butcher on faint electric guitar. An accordion player rounded out the trio. They lulled the crowd to sleep with their soft two- and three-chord folk exercises and J.'s pseudo-Beat poetry lyrics. When J. dedicated the song "Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh" to Joe Strummer, one hoped for something lively and passionate, but got droning wordplay with no dynamics. When the accordion was given the spotlight, simple chords rolled out instead of distinct parts that might have given the songs some character.
In hoping for the epiphanies that the simplest of pop structures inspire, David J. puts too much faith in his songs. "I'll Be Your Chauffeur" and "The National Anthem to Nowhere" are solid, but J. is not the next Van Morrison, his most obvious musical hero, nor is he even the next Michael Penn.