After a seven year break, indie’s bluesman returns
When I was a uni there was a massive explosion in bands. And what’s more they all wanted me to see them play live. Life was pretty busy, juggling seminars, essays, course work, seeing that bands whose name sounds like a naughty child, or that dancey lot with the odd font. One musician I never got tired of seeing was Mr. David Viner. Granted I didn’t see him a lot, maybe five times either supporting like-minded bands or headlining his own shows, but they were always worth it. After three flawless albums in five years he vanished off the face of the musical landscape.
That is until now. Seven years since his last album Among the Rumours and the Rye, Viner has returned with So Well Hid. I know what you’re thinking “During this period of self-imposed exile, what’s the music like? Has he changed his style?” Luckily the answer is simple. The music is good, and age, like with wine and whiskey, as sharpened his songwriting. Obviously there are subtle changes though. Gone is jaunty blusesque guitar playing, and piano is now vying for Viner’s affection as weapon of choice.
Opening, and title track, So Well Hid has a chord progression similar Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. This is where the similarity ends though. Lyrically, it appears, Viner has been listening to Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen a lot in the last seven years. Cave’s storytelling prowess oozes all over So Well Hid, and Cohen’s vocal delivery has clearly influenced Viner in recent years. Fields of Akeldema follows on the storytelling vibe. Viner croons “I’ve got a good life, a job and a car, a home and a wife” as the backing band saunters on in the back ground.
On I’d Love to Kill You and Chelsea Smile No.2 you can almost see Cohen’s shadow casting over the song. I’d Love to Kill You is reminiscent of So Long Marianne, in strumming and verse structure, and after the intro you catch yourself mouthing the words. The inclusion of horns on both tracks is an inspired touch as it adds a mournful feeling usually missing from pop music. It’s inclusion brings to mind Conan Mockasin’s early work. Clever lyrics, great melody, but with a hint of melancholy.
The stand out tracks on the album are right near the end. The Beast of Baxter Springs and The Orchid. They both sound like they’ve lifted out of Pino Donaggio or Franco Bixio scores, but their inclusion gives the album not only a change in texture but in pace too. There is a hint of Hank Marvin in the guitar paying too. Either Viner has spent the intervening years watching every Spaghetti Western he can, or he’s played a lot of Red Dead Redemption. Either why it helps bring the album to a glorious close.
The only downside to the album is Viner’s influences are on display more than on his previous three. This is fine, but in the past he’s used them to forward his song writing, but on So Well Hid he appears to be following them. Also the flow of the album seems off, as it sounds at times like a collection of singles instead of a cohesive body of work. This might be down to when the songs were originally recorded. Personally I’m putting this down to being out of the saddle for too long and all will be on track for Mr. David Viner IV, please don’t wait another seven years though…