Monday, July 17, 2006

labour of love

david poe - 'love is red'

released: june 21, 2005
running time: 34'38"
ulftone music

songs: 1. you're the bomb 2. so beautiful 3. love is red 4. wilderness 5. reunion 6. moon 7. settlement 8. you got a reputation 9. doxology 10. love won't last the afternoon

My attention was first drawn to david poe when I was fortunate enough to catch him opening up for a part of Ed Harcourt's (whose latest record I talked about here) European tour a couple of years ago. There he was, this sleepy-looking New Yorker, but surprisingly razor-sharp in his wit, with songs that instantly demanded the attention of an Ed Harcourt-centered crowd. The merchandise stall had the bold Ed Harcourt quote that 'Love Is Red' was 'the best album ever!'. I wouldn't go quite that far, but this record is undoubtedly a surprisingly fabulous one.

David on record is slightly different from his crazy stage persona. The emotion levels are much higher and there is not so much fooling about, although the sharpness of wit and his particular hint of dry sarcasm are present, be it in some bar-lounge moods or the inspired lyrics.

All through the jazzy labyrinth of the 'Love Is Red' songwriting there's that slightly decadent, urban cool mood of smoky late-night cafes you get from, say, Morphine or Tim Buckley (of whom there's a surprising cover of 'You Got A Reputation'). Poe's voice is at turns warmly seductive and coldly ironic and fits each song's mood like a glove. Emotionally, Poe can touch some deep nerves with his tales of usually failed relationships, whether in the I'm-sorry-I-don't-love-you of first single 'So Beautiful', the broken weariness of 'Love Won't Last The Afternoon' or the upbeat creepiness of 'Reunion'. These feelings are much augmented by two very important things: the lyrics, which are sharp, rich in good metaphors and charged with realism, and the production. Poe locked himself (and his band) in a bunker in Berlin to capture some of that desolate feeling, and that isolation worked like a charm. Some of these songs are re-recordings of songs from Poe's two first albums, but I prefer facing them as new, such is their new weight compared to the original versions.

'Love Is Red' is one of those rare records that you will play over and over again, still discovering little new touches way after you thought you'd memorized the whole songs. As far as singer-songwriters go these days, david poe is the real deal.

the good: a superb collection of ten brokenhearted but nevertheless uplifting songs that will remain with you long after the stop button is pressed
the bad: you'll wish that it went on past the 34 short minutes that it lasts


  1. i don't go for the technical type of review and will not comment on those aspects, but.. the word "desolate", which you used, is not a word that i associate with david poe.

    i find his songs very warm and humane, with a bit of the self-deprecating sneer or the humorously cynical smile (and they would be boring without it). it's songs about love, but with experience and a brain to back it up.

  2. i find his songs exactly like that too, and i also agree that that sneer is what elevates his songs beyond the 'usual'. but i do think that doesn't exclude that bit of desolate sadness that i get from them.

    isn't, for example, 'love won't last the afternoon' the most brokenharted thing ever?