Album Review: David J- An Eclipse of Ships


David J


An Eclipse of Ships


An Eclipse of Ships is available at:


TRACK LISTING: Dust In the Wind9.4/10.0 Hot Sheet Hotel9.3 You Suit A Rainy Day9.4 Little Miss Impeccable9.3 Yokohama Blues 9.4 Visitation9.4 In The Blue Hour In Berlin9.5 Excruciating Allure9.4 La Femme de Montreal9.6 Where The Bloodline Ends9.4 The You of Yesteryear9.5

STAND OUT TRACK: La Femme de Montreal

DOWNLOAD: Dust In the Wind, You Suit A Rainy Day, In The Blue Hour In Berlin, La Femme de Montreal, The You of Yesteryear

RELEASED: 1st May, 2014


RECORDED AT: Ear Gallery Music in Los Angeles PRODUCED BY: David J ENGINEERED BY: Tony Green MIXED BY: Tony Green and David J MASTERED BY: Gary Hobbish at A. Hammer in San Francisco.

GENRES: Alternative, Gothic, Acoustic, Folk. _______________________________________________________________ Legendary musician and producer David J has had a long and staggering career- from his days with Bauhaus and Love and the Rockets through to his current situation. Mixing staggering stories with glorious blends of Acoustic and Alternative, An Eclipse of Ships is a rich and compelling set of songs- and Haskins’ strongest solo album to date. _____________________________________________________________________

IDEALS of proficiency and longevity are not assured in the music industry.

Having just witnessed Glastonbury (for another year), I could not help but be impressed by the performers on show: it takes a lot of talent to get that far, as well as determination. With competition in the mainstream being pretty high, the likes of Jack White, Metallica and Kasabian have had to overcome a great deal; ensure that their music is on the highest order- the call up for Glastonbury is reserved to the chosen few. In spite of the festival (this year at least) being Rock-heavy, there is room for anyone: all genres and types of act have a chance to make it there- so long as their music is capable of getting the crowds enraptured. As I look around the shores of new music, I can see a few bands/solo artists I feel will be making their way to Worthy Farm in years to come: I have reviewed a few of them, and have been delighted to revel in their confidence and ambition. As much as anything, I hope that a lot of my musical friends get the chance to play such a prestigious festival. There are smaller and less high-profile gigs out there, but Glastonbury seems to top them all: the sheer size of the venue is enough to get most musicians salivating with excitement. It is never impossible to make it that far; if you are talented and focused enough you can never say never- although you need to possess something rather special. There are precious few musicians around that have had a truly long-term career- when you look at the overall numbers- so I am always impressed when I do encounter such an example: today’s act has certainly had a prosperous and busy music career. Let me introduce David J to you:

David John Haskins (born April 24, 1957, Northampton), better known as David J, is a musician, producer and writer. He was the bassist for the Gothic-Rock band Bauhaus and Love and the Rockets. In 2004, his first play Anarchy In The Gold Street Wimpy was staged in Atlanta by the Dad’s Garage’ Theatre Company. In 2005, he composed the original music for a stage production of Samuel Beckett’s Cascando. In 2008, J wrote and directed a play, Silver for Gold (The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick), which was restaged at REDCAT in Los Angeles in 2011. In 2008 J also released Go Away White with his Bauhaus bandmates and reformed Love and Rockets, who played at Coachella as well as Lollapalooza that same year. 2008 also saw David J contributing lyrics and vocals on a track entitled “Sleaze” for the Dutch band, Strange Attraction, and appeared on their album, Mettle (2011). He worked with the band again when he supplied lyrics and vocals on “The Corridor” for the album, Anatomy of a Tear. (2011) In a similar vein, J wrote the lyrics and sang the lead vocal on the track “Spalding Grey Can’t Swim,” which appeared on George Sarah’s 2012 release, Who Sleeps The Sleep of Peace. In 2011, J released a new solo album that was dark cabaret-oriented, Not Long for This World, and provided bass for Voltaire’s album Riding a Black Unicorn Down the Side of an Erupting Volcano While Drinking from a Chalice Filled with the Laughter of Small Children!. In 2012, he recorded bass for the song “Melody Dean” on the album Theatre Is Evil by Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra. He co-wrote the track “The Autumn Carnival” with Courtney Taylor-Taylor for The Dandy Warhols’ album, This Machine, 2012. Also in 2012, he toured using his opening act Adrian H and the Wounds as a backing band. David J produced and played bass, organ and sang on Starfishing (2012) the debut album by Darwin. He also co-produced, played bass and appeared on the Darwin’s follow-up EP Souvenir (2014). The video for the single “Meaningless” featured David, Victor DeLorenzo (Violent Femmes) and Emily Jane White. In 2013 he collaborated with producer Dub Gabriel, playing bass, bells and Farfisa organ alongside U Roy and Juakali. He also played bass on the Dub Gabriel produced Jajouka Sound System track “Salahadeen,” which featured Bashir Attar, leader of The Master Musicians of Jajouka on gaita. On Halloween 2013, David J in collaboration with Jill Tracy, released “Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Undead is Forever).” This was a dramatic cinematic reworking of the original Bauhaus song.”

There are few other musicians in the world that have such an impressive backstory; David J ranks amongst one of the most inspirational talents in the world. Having made five albums with Bauhaus; seven with Love and the Rockets- in addition to his solo L.P.s and E.P.s- it appears that the British-born star has no plans of slowing down any time soon. Since 1979, David J has played with a host of different plans; produced extensively as well as contributed to film scores- in addition to having written for the theatre. For those that feel modern music is synonymous with short-term glory and truncated careers, David J is an example of how things should be done. It is not just his talent that has got him where he is today, but his collaborative spirit. Too many modern-day acts tend to play their own music- without conjoining with others- and find that their energy levels drop and public fascination subsides. David J has kept his creativity high by affording himself the opportunity to play with a myriad of eager and varied musicians. If you have not heard of our aforementioned hero, you should set time aside to investigate his work: as well as being a celebrated name across the U.S., David J has inspired wealths of musicians across the U.K.- and throughout the world. It is hard to compare An Eclipse of Ships with any of David J’s previous outings. Having played in Gothic-Rock bands such as Bauhaus- as well as Alternative-Rock act Love and the Rockets- our hero has played a range of genres and incarnations. Fans of David J will not be disappointed by his latest effort: Not Long For This World (released in 2011) was his previous release and you can hear similarities between the two albums. All of David J’s unique traits have remained solid; they have been expanded and built upon- An Eclipse of Ships is perhaps his most assured work in recent years. One of the most distinct aspects of David J’s music is his lyrics and wordplay. His current L.P. is packed with vivid imagery and eye-watering scenes. Tales of drugs and drunkenness mix with intellectualism and self-reflection (across the eleven tracks): depending on what you are in the mood for, David J has it on offer. In a sense he is a musical chemist: no matter your malady or predisposition, our hero has the medicine for you. His music has a redemptive and restorative quality: the compositions are rich and detailed; his lines prick your mind and vividly put you in the song- his voice ties everything together with its sense of directness and authority. Right the way from Etiquette of Violence (his debut solo release) through to Not Long For This World, David J has ensured that every song has ambition and personality at their core: his consistency and quality have hardly dipped in the last 31 years. Many critics became ambivalent and mixed towards Love and the Rockets’ late-career Heavy-Rock sound; Bauhaus’s swan song was met with critical acclaim- in a sense An Eclipse of Ships is more familiar with Go Away White than Sweet F.A./Lift. David J has not tried to recapture his past days and early triumphs: his current offerings have moved forward and provide a mature and developed sound. Those that miss the days of Bauhaus and Love and The Rockets will not be disappointed: there is plenty of energy, rush and fascination; darker and shadowy mandates; powerful and emotional numbers. Perhaps the most distinct development (since David J’s early days) is the overall sound. An Eclipse of Ships is a more laid-back and gentler affair- compared to our hero’s band output- and provides more soothe than it does feral force. Those that are looking for something deeper and seductive should check out his new album. As difficult as it is to compare David J’s current album with his past work, it is perhaps harder to compare him with other acts. David J’s voice is quite rich and deep. Artists such as Tom Waits and Bob Dylan might crystallise (in people’s minds) when listening to tracks such as Where The Bloodline Ends (Vasectomy Song) and The You of Yesteryear. The entire album is wrapped around a chocolate-toned and evocative vocal line: those that are fans of masters such as Dylan, Waits and Neil Young will discover a lot to enjoy here. The lyrics across An Eclipse of Ships are the strongest David J has come up with: the words mix oblique and poetic with direct and intoxicated- there is such a wealth and range of topics explored that you struggle to take it all in. Few modern lyricists have such a detail for mood and scene-setting. If you have investigated some of my recent review subjects such as The Midnight Pine, Clara Engel and Kate Tempest; then you will appreciate An Eclipse’ and its amazing details. It is an album that not only appeals to lovers of intelligent and well-considered music, but those that have an affection for classic Folk and Acoustic sounds. Anyone that prefers their music more demonized and bloodcurdling- perhaps with more electric guitar- should not shy away from David J’s latest love affair: the sounds on offer will speak to anyone that prides conviction and beauty over emptiness and ephemeral brevity. Shades of current sweetheart Laura Marling can be extrapolated in An Eclipse of Ships’ tantalising wordplay and biblical scenery: tender and charming stories unfold in the mix, to allow a sense of balance to come through. An upbeat and joyous vocal performance give energy and rush to Dust In the Wind. Backed by yearning strings and pattering percussion, the song looks at the itinerant (“It’s a long way from Manilla to Amsterdam“) and vagaries and strife of life. The opening verse looks at a “poor wild gypsy girl“: her head and love life a mess, it seems as though fleeing and escaping is the only possibility. After the trepidation of the opening verse, we progress to something more redemptive: opportunities arrive that are “too good to rescind“- our heroine switches course and becomes dust in the wind. The alluring central figure has David J in a trance. Dangerous of hips and alluring of charms, the gypsy girl throws off all suitors: there is an essence of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks as our hero mixes stunningly vivid scenes with a tender but potent composition. With little more than percussion, mandolin, violin and acoustic guitar, we witness the seductress leave “sweetmeats and black lillies“- before departing and leaving our hero alone. Sweeping you up in a whirlpool of odd romance and intoxicating imagery, David J’s voice is instilled with conviction, passion and wisdom- the vocal line is optimistic and never loses its smiling kick and sense of movement. Hot Sheet Hotel opens with a gorgeous and sweeping coda. Country-flavoured elements come through in the song’s aching composition- matched by David J’s soothing and tender vocal. In a house of lasciviousness, guests arrive incognito: cheap patio furniture is chained down and rooms are “rented by the hour.” One may normally expect to find these kind of lyrics scored by electric guitar and full-bloodied vocals. Our hero brings the song to life with his swaying and determined vocal. As the tale comes to its conclusion, wives at home are “seeking retribution“- the no-good husbands that have cheated are getting their just-desserts. Humour and tongue-in-cheek (as well as other parts of the body) are fused to create a song that could easily fit on Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man– there is that same wit and mixture of beauty and impurity. Offering some reformation and salvation is You Suit A Rainy Day. David J’s voice matches the peppiness and pace of the album opener: here we investigate a more traditional muse. Visions of Tangled Up In Blue (apologies for going to the Dylan well) come to mind. Our hero’s sweetheart works at a strip joint (“On the east side of Tinseltown“): amidst a sea of clowns and fools, our heroine is working her way towards rebirth. A simple and effective composition beautifully support David J’s stunning fable. With storms brewing and a Victorian sofa waiting, our heroine smashes her glass and loses her phone- the sense of klutziness wonderfully blends with the poetic. In spite of the provocative weather, our hero sees his heroine in more palatial surroundings: on her way to the Grand Palais; lavish splendour would suit her just fine. Combining Rhodes piano and acoustic guitar, you get a wonderful sense of light and shade; stormy and sunshine- it is a song that makes you smile from start to end. Contradictions, perfectionism and vanities come to the fore in Little Miss Impeccable. Looking at the stars and the moon’s trail, our hero follows the mess of contradiction. With her “burqa drag” and “Goth Lolita” wardrobe; Champaign giggles and drunken pratfalls- you start to picture a rather shallow and messy figure. David J’s voice remains controlled and potent: he is caught up in the madness and wonder of what is unfolding- determined to ensure every word sticks. Displaying his gift for wordplay, our hero mixes apothecary and caprice with iTunes stores and lemon balm- once more the listener is afforded a wealth of rich imagery and fascinating story. Topped off with a fast-flowing and effusive vocal performance, Little Miss Impeccable keeps the album’s sense of strength and ambition riding high. Inspired by real-life events, David J recalls being stranded in Japan. Yokohama Blues’ emotive slide guitar adds weight and texture to a fascinating tale. Sipping sake by himself, our hero meets “this beautiful girl.” Having had an auspicious last few days, the two converge to Yokohama (her home) where he receives a golden fleece. You can practically hear the grin on our hero’s face as he is in her company. David J’s vocal is softer- yet more romanticized- than previous numbers: backed by a Blues-inspired composition, his pleasure is cut somewhat short. Memories in mind as part of him wants to return home and his “part geisha, part go-go dancer.” Visitation (Song for An Elegant Angel) sees David J let his darker tones do the talking. Recalling a “midnight apparition“, our hero’s voice is low-down and determined. Recalling memories- of his beau being a nerdy kid- “On a school trip to foreign towns“, witticisms, romantic longing and off-colour remarks are exchanged.  His lady of the night is an “Elegant Angel” (the production company she is contracted to); you can  David J’s voice possesses touches of Leonard Cohen- he has a steady and gravelled projection throughout the song- and the same lyrical talents. As the lovers exchange suggestive remarks, his girl dissapears- our hero wonders if she was “a digital download, alas!” (referring to the fact that the song is about a porn star).  From the previous landscapes of Japan- we are now in Germany, In The Blue Hour In Berlin sees our hero hearing the cabaret calling: hitting the U-Bahn, he meets a perfect stranger- someone who causes him awe and admiration. The composition is sparse and simple as our hero’s voice plays up front: it is more upbeat than its predecessor and instilled with a sense of playfulness. If the vocal has more energy at heart, subjects have darker back alleys: doom and gloom, cold eyes and oxygen deprivation mingle with hopes of romance and missed opportunities. As it is said (beautiful women) “disappear like phantoms“, there is a sense of resignation in the performance- David J will miss them like “IV heroin withheld from a junkie.” The listener is brought into Berlin night scenes: evocative and provocative images put you in the song and have you rooting for the hero- wondering whether he obtained the satisfaction he desired. Shades of Blood on the Tracks-Dylan come through (again) within Excruciating Allure. Looking at desire and unrequited love, our hero looks at what could have been: “The river rushed on” beneath hero and heroine; so near yet so far, it seems that David J’s heart will go unsatisfied once more. Sleep alludes the mind as a “screaming hole” appears- to replace the image of his muse and sweetheart. Few other tracks on the album are as wracked and anxious than Excruciating Allure. David J is a man “Crushed by the screws/Of  a lost posession“- with a heavy heart and rain in the soul, one of the most urgent and direct vocal performances is presented. “Calico and crimson” are the first images of La Femme de Montreal’s beautiful soul. With mentions of a Leonard Cohen concert, you can’t help feel that our hero has Cohen inside him: Being in Cohen’s native country, David J weaves tales of trapeze artists, ice buckets and kisses that leave bruises: sexual liaison and death-defying double acts are explored and investigated. Boating one of the most memorable melodies and compositions, the track trips and weaves around our hero’s hot-bloodied vocal. By the track’s final seconds he elicits a breathy sigh- enraptured in the scenes and images he is weaving. Where The Bloodline Ends (Vasectomy Song) is as vivid as its title suggests. Humour and grizzled sarcasm linger within early words: lines such as “‘Cos lust can lead to the sack and sin/And sin can lead to kin/So let’s get this damn thing over with/Pass the Valium and the gin” will make you smile. Unwanted pregnancy and conception are at the forefront of the track. Our worried hero wants a steady-handed doctor to “…eradicate the prospect/Of a pregnancy unplanned.” The middle-aged warrior does not want anything tying him down and ruining his winning streak. As he prepares to- with winking euphemism- “hang the pope“, the drugs and anesthetics are administered: the bloodline is going to end with one simple- yet sore- procedure. After the surprising merriment and humour of the penultimate track comes our final number: The You of Yesteryear. Nervousness and self-doubt are examined as we look at a central figure: someone trying to recapture their past; she is selling all their old clothes and in need of moving on. Maybe an unpleasant lover has made our heroine transform and change: there is sympathy in our hero’s voice as he continues his moving tale. David J’s voice is at its romantic and sensitive peak: backed by a tender and powerful composition, there is hope (for the heroine). As she packs away her belongings; her fiery love life is replaced with glowing embers- those embers “Can still kindle desire.” The track implores the subject not to change or cry: she is still a beauty and pretty special- ending An Eclipse of Ships on a redemptive high. Forgive my tumescent ramblings and long-winded reviewing: it is rare to come across an act that not only has had such a long and successful career, but one does not  seem to have missed a step along the way. Similar to legends such as Dylan and Cohen, Haskins has no plans to abandon his passion for music any time soon. You can tell just how much music means to him: An Eclipse of Ships drips with emotion, fascination and urgency throughout. In my mind, there are few lyricists that are as talented and spellbinding. When reading the album’s lyrics- I was sent a copy of the album for reviewing- I was taken aback by the brilliance and intelligence coming through. There are quite a few stunning wordsmiths on the current scene, yet few that have such a flair for story and projection. Having underlined a few lines in each track, it has given me inspiration for my own music: the mark of a truly great artist is one that compels your creative side when you listen to their sounds. David J has had a successful and prolific solo career, yet he has hit his peak here- it seems that he is as much in love with recording and performing than he has ever been. I know that he has plans to tour the album internationally; he will be making stops across the globe with the hope of connecting with as many fans as possible- if he arrives in London, I will be making sure I come and see him play. Haskins may have been performing for decades now, but it does not mean that his music is relegated and directed towards similar-aged fans: there is as much for teenagers and the young as there is for older listeners. A lot of modern music makes it moves based around the principles of heavy sounds and sheer energy: few newborn acts take the time to offer something deeper and more cerebral. I could spend hours dissecting David J’s words; take hours out to get inside of his mind and find out what inspires him. As you can tell the artist has been creatively compelled by a range of different events. Evidently our hero has had an adventurousss and fun-filled (is that the word?) last few years- if it leads to albums such as An Eclipse of Ships then I hope he has many more! The former Bauhaus master has produced his most complete and stunning collection of songs to date. Divine songwriting, terrific production, multifarious compositions and urgent vocals make it a must-hear L.P.: in a year where most of my favourite albums have been synonymous with heaviness, it is a huge pleasure to discover something different. If you are seeking an album (and artist) that takes you somewhere rather special.. YOU are spoiled for choice here.

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