Musicians generally fall into two categories: people we, as listeners, look to as equals who candidly reflect our own experiences, and people we look to as authorities who provide us greater worldly understanding. Rarely do these two roles truly and effectively come together in one artist, one who both relates to the everyday trials of life but can also offer larger insights. David Terry, the man behind Aqueduct, is one of the few to whom this happens. From the first lines of Or Give Me Death -- "I've been a father to you all/In spite of what you've heard/And for the most part/I've been a perfect stranger too" -- on the brilliant opener, "Lying in the Bed I've Made" to the Beach Boys-esque ode to The Princess Bride "As You Wish," to the offhanded "People never change, bitch/Don't even try" in the Smoosh-rock of "Keep It Together," Terry writes jocularly sad and perceptive lyrics that play out over warm, thoughtfully composed, sometimes orchestral, pop chords. Yet despite the layers, the eclectic instrumentation (the combination of flugelhorn, his Wayne Coyne-esque squawk, synths, electric guitar, RJD2-ish piano line, and excitable strings in "Wasted Energy," for example), the album is not pretentious, overbearing, or even kitschy, much in part thanks to the persona that Terry has been able to create for himself. Or Give Me Death is fun yet serious, cheerful yet depressing, simple yet intricate, and Terry acts as both the Virgilian guide leading us through society and the slightly pathetic but endearingly imperfect protagonist who makes mistakes and surrounds himself by others who make mistakes, too. The overzealous, misunderstood boyfriend in "Just the Way I Are," and the worn-out lover in "Zero the Controls" are familiar, wholly honest characters, the kind you see in your everyday life, the kind you see in yourself. As Aqueduct, Terry, the omniscient Everyman, is able to capture the normal quirkiness of humanity in catchy melodic phrases and double-tracked vocals, offering us understanding, commiseration, and, most important of all, something to sing along to.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown