David Bronson's "The Story" Reviewed
David Bronson's conclusion to his seven year in the making The Long Lost Story repays close attention with detailed emotional rewards exceedingly rare today, at least the second half, The Story, released last August, does (the first half is pending) but is that enough in this day and age?
The New York based singer producer was playing and sharing song writing chores with a local band called the Readymaker when he quit and got a straight ob so as to follow his muse and buy studio time, for this autobiographic story of a man who loses a woman and finds himself on a long inward journey. Bronson has compared it to Beck's Sea Change, but the similarity is probably clearer if you've heard the first half.
I compared it to Cat Steven's The Foreigner because, a) Bronson's voice is similar and b) this a variant on prog-rock and so was this specific Foreigner album: both of them are ambitious works of self awareness. But Cat was a piano based album, Bronson's is a guitar based work and this is fundamental to them, a big difference.
But both of them have another similarity: if you pull songs out of context on both works, they don't sound as good. On Story, I'll give Bronson "Time", a folkie Teaser And The Firecat meets "The Golden Age' opener, and "The One", a swirling psychedelia Floyd-y track, but you can't hear "Unending (Underture)" outside of its final, dreamy hopefulness duet and have it work. Only in context does it function completely.
While leads to another problem: EVERYTHING IS out of context because we haven't heard the first part: it is as if we are being thrown into an emotional landmine and there is no clear reason why. "Underture" is a gorgeous, deep, sound, the song is in movements and the song, about the way we change, is also about the entire works movement forward, "I found myself" would resonate more if we knew quite what was lost.
This is a problem, but it isn't a deal breaker. Everything here comes with a caveat, and the caveat is, I am missing half the story. Imagine you are listening to a private conversation on a train, the conversation is very intense but you don't know who the people are.That is what "Underture" is like, it is really a very gorgeous, very important piece of composing, but it is working in a vacuum.
So the beginning, middle and end are breathtaking, really. The rest of the album surrounds it in an aura of depression that lifts as it continues. Absolutely, I have seldom heard such a well formatted album: it is all of a piece and it moves with a resolve to its, not denouement. but it moves to an opening, a beginning. It starts as a tragedy but becomes a comedy of life.
This makes it very very positive even if it is often a "sad ill fated fracture". In order to get there from here, you must make your way through the tangle, sweeping songs, to the joining duet at the end.. All these songs are a little tangled and that makes the album hard going at times: it asks a lot from the listener but its rewards are real. For one thing, it is a reminder that of all the things an album can be, it can be a form of temperate catharsis. It is one thing to claim misery loves company, another to show a way through the mess.
The music itself is the best thing about Story. If the story is blurry and, despite moments of wild poetry, the language too often prosaic, and the songs existing best in context, the music is completely brilliant. It builds from strings and drums upwards and forwards, from the extended outro of "Momentary" to the echoed backlash vocal of "Adrift", the hard rock drumming of "Times" to the insulated static "The Turns", everything sounds just wonderful. You can forgive the missed ambitions, the mistakes, the too close for comfort and the dysfunctional soulfulness, for music that sounds so damn good.
In his bio, Bronson mentions listening to the Beck album three times a day for three months. This intense emulsified in sound, and not its story of a lost first love, is at the heart of his Story. He thinks he is exorcising emotional demons but he is drowning in a sea of sound as surely as Pete Townsend did on Quadrophenia: there's your comparison. It's all the sound of change.