David Candy

Play Power

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Ian Svenonius temporarily set aside his polemics and agit-punk aggression for this delightfully kitsch, groovy retro side trip through the intoxicating '60s jet-set experience under the guise of David Candy. His invented persona is partly based on a trio of characters from loopy '60s cult films: "Max Frost" from the satire Wild in the Streets (1967), in which a pop singer becomes President; Paul Jones' "Steven Shorter" from quintessential British mod flick Privilege (1968), which follows a pop singer elevated by the government into a religious messiah for propagandist purposes; and Terence Stamp's "Toby Dammit" from Federico Fellini's psychedelic short "Never Bet Your Head" (from Spirits of the Dead, 1968). With such cues, its not surprising that Svenonius draws upon a wide sampling of pop cultural corners, including the Monkees ("Listen to the Music"), David Bowie (the spot-on approximation of "Bad Bad Boy"), Carnaby Street, Sunset Strip, spoken word, and the Beats. "Redfuchsiatamborine&gravel," alone, veers from discussion of modernist and anarchist literature and art to a shared pudding recipe to a Sao Paolo travelogue, while the music is steeped in Catalonian flamenco music and some of bohemia's finger-snapping cool. It is very Hemingway-, very Picasso-esque. It allows Svenonius to indulge in some whimsical, tongue-in-cheek fun even as the lyrics retain some of his typically biting wit and politicized bent. Mostly, though, he expertly disappears fully into the David Candy character, a sometimes arrogant, sometimes self-consciously hip, always suave customer fond of espousing pretentious opinions and theories on arcane periods of art, history, and literature. Even with Svenonius putting on such an enchanting performance, the stars of the album are the producers/multi-instrumentalists/co-songwriters Jeremy Butler and John Austin, the men behind Death by Chocolate and much of the music on Jetset's Songs for the Jet Set series. They're so good that they even turn the very long (19 minutes, all of them worth it) "Diary of a Genius" into a psychedelic philosophical tract of, well, near genius. Play Power may be more style than substance, but that is entirely the point. The style, in fact, is the substance -- and it is delicious at that.

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