David Myles has released his tenth album, Real Love. The album explores another facet of what Myles has already been doing for a while now, he’s just made it that much more apparent for the rest of us.
The challenge we’re given with Real Love is that we have to take Myles in context. We’re used to seeing David Myles. It’s the suit. The glasses. The clean cut look. He’s undeniably pulling from Buddy Holly’s closet and the 1950s in general. Which is okay. We all have our influences.
It’s not the first time that a musician has successfully pulled off this manoeuver before. There was the Beach Boys in the ’70s trying to recapture the simplicity and innocence of an age that may or may not have ever existed. The Darkness launched their career as an unironic nod to big-haired metal bands like (ironically) Spinal Tap. Jethro Tull found their inspiration somewhere between medieval minstrels and a flamingo.
Where it falls down is when Myles goes from his Buddy Holly routine to channeling Roy Orbison. It stops being a plausibly passing nod to an artist or genre, and becomes a gimmick. It’s the same reason Austin Powers only got three movies: he went from being a master spy frozen since 1960s and tripping over his own anachronistic behaviours in a modern society, to being a master spy frozen in the 1960s and tripping over his own anachronistic behaviours while also regularly travelling through time to thwart his nemesis. Not even Beyoncé could save that.
That being said, there are a handful of tunes of the album that stand up on their own. ‘Look At Me’ takes a fun approach with a beautiful horn arrangement and a happy-go-lucky tune. ‘Real Love’, the title track, comes in with the punchy ramble of deep Motown. ‘Night After Night’ gets orchestral for the dramatic feel of betrayal.
Which would be great, except for Myles delivering the lines in an unconvincing croon as he saunters through each song. “I’m kicking and screaming and having a blast,” from ‘Look At Me’ comes out with less enthusiasm than someone discovering half-price appetizers. The sound of fortitude in the face of heartbreak in ‘Cry, Cry, Cry’ carries as much vehemence as someone asking to pass the sugar. Myles might have the sound of the fifties, but it comes without any sentiment.
Some songs from the album may be forgiven, or at least exempt. ‘Stupid’ seems to fall inline with the silliness of Harry Nilsson meets Joel Plaskett’s ‘Fashionable People’, and ‘Dreaming’ is an uncomplicated ode to living simple that builds with some great harmonies. Finally, ‘Crazy To Leave’ breaks with Myles’ typical delivery to close out the album with what sounds like some honest to goodness emotion.
Real Love might as well have been titled David Myles Sings The Sounds Of The Fifties. It doesn’t really feel like a David Myles album, but instead David Myles putting on a different costume for each song: now the Elvis one, now Buddy Holly, now Roy Orbison, now Johnny Cash. David Myles should focus on being the best David Myles, not a second-stringer copy.