David Garza: Overdub

David Garza

There is something strangely disconcerting about witnessing the monkey’s wedding of modern rock’s incestuous breeding. The last couple of years have thrown out several “new” popular rock hybrids, be they ska-punk, rap-metal or techno R&B. These “sub-genres” throw themselves down at the feet of the ugliest, lowest-denominator, crass Golden Calf in abject genuflection and sacrifice all pretense to artistry and craft for quick fix fame and fortune.

Whilst I am all for the genuine cross-pollination of styles and approaches in order to keep pop music fresh and refreshing, I simply will not tolerate combining the worst excesses of over-rated musical forms to give life to an even worse progeny. This practice reeks of shameless opportunism and must be called out whenever and wherever it surfaces.

Now, David Garza has built up a reputation for pop-savvy songwriting and a technically perfect rock sound. His debut album — This Euphoria has been lauded for memorable and infectious songs and top-notch melodies, lyrics, arrangements, instrumentation, production and vocals. The low-profile acoustic follow-up Kingdom Come and Go has been praised for its experimentation and ambition.

Overdub finds Garza swotting up on “Modern Rock 101” and succumbing to the lure of the almighty techno beat whilst maintaining the frat-boy appeal of Led Zeppellin-esque hard rock hi-jinks. Strange as this might sound, Overdub may just be the definitive corporate rock album for the post-millennium set. Which, if any of you are wondering, is not really a good thing. Please let me elaborate.

It’s simple enough to figure out that anything with crunching power chords (and necessitating mindless air-guitar wheeling) is going to do the business amongst the Limp Bizkit-Korn-Linkin Park fanbase, but to meld that aesthetic with the artificial monotonous throb of robotic drum machines so familiar to the teenybopper crowd is perhaps a masterstroke of marketing and demographic positioning.

Not only that, but Garza has assimilated well that potent weapon called irony. The opening “Drone” even slaps you in the face with “used to harmonize with stereo now it’s just drone”. The messy buzz soon gives way to the folky funk of “Say Baby” as Garza angrily remarks “soul is a four-letter word”. Garza’s lyrical sins come to a head in “God’s Hands” — “I waited for the gospel but the gospel never came / Prophets and the pimps working for the man / Blessed are the fools blessed are the fiends” — where Garza finds that organised religion is an easy target indeed as he mock-sacrilegiously sneers, “Praise the Lord and shake your ass”. Ugly ugly ugly!

“Soul Custody” and “Bloodsuckers” are agonizing exercises in Garza’s replication of the U2-Jeff Buckley atmospheric balladry but executed with the subtlety of a buzzsaw. These are minor aberrations compared to Garza’s idea of a glam rockout as epitomised by the dismal “Blow My Mind” and “Crown of Thorns”. Uncool Prince Xeroxes abound with “Too Much” and “Say Baby”. Garza understands the value of referencing the right people. That said, “Let Me” and “Alone” have the melodic potential to escape Garza’s leaden touch but, alas, fail miserably.

Ultimately, Garza would be better off remembering that following one’s muse is more important than calculated music making. This writer’s chagrin lies in understanding that Garza possesses the ability to rise above these purely cynical concerns, instead of leaving us with just “drone”.