Too many actors turned “musicians” simply stumble through albums without much creativity or passion, depending on the fame and “talent” society has somewhat widely agreed upon to carry them from success in one outlet into success in another. Occasionally, however, some are true renaissance men/women – as we saw last week – but it can be hard to tell upon first impression.
Enter Jason Schwartzman, whose musical career dares to annoy not just because he’s known as an actor, and not just because he’s already achieved some kind of fame in the music business, but also because he’s the worst kind of celebrity, a celebrity who was born into fame. A branch on the seemingly vast Coppola family tree, Schwartzman was sucking on a silver spoon before he was even conceived.
Formerly the drummer for the now splitsville “The OC” phenom band Phantom Planet, Schwartzman has released Davy, a second album under his solo project, Coconut Records. And despite the laundry list of reasons why you might be pre-disposed to hate it, doing so only makes it easier for Schwartzman to knock you off your feet.
A short but significant 28 minutes long, Davy is a surprisingly unpretentious album of acoustic guitar and piano based pop. Scoring immediate earnest points, Schwartzman is outward about his influences (namely, the Beatles, the Beatles, and… did he mention… the Beatles?) without unbearable mimicry.
The closest Schwartzman comes to banking on his fame is in “Drummer,” an autobiographical track with a chorus that spells it all out, “I was a drummer in a band you’ve heard of,” but dismisses the statement as quickly as he mentions it, following it up with a ho-hum, “Isn’t that the way it goes?” (Not for every drummer, no, Mr. Schwartzman, but anyhow…) Beyond that line, he makes no references to his famous lifestyle, his wealth or his acting career. Schwartzman sticks to pop basics – love, family, attempts to understand life.
The lyrics don’t add up to much independently, but serve as another building block in Schwartzman’s ability to flesh out pop songs. Building out from guitar and piano (usually both acoustic), Schwartzman fills his melodies with extra layers, handclaps, trumpets and various percussion instruments. Though most of the songs are under three minutes long, none of them sound under-developed or cast off.
The first single, “Microphone,” crafts a memorable refrain on heavier tones, pointing to the aggression brought about by relationship troubles, “I know that you’re not coming home.” Beginning with a pound on the piano keys, “Any Fun” jumps into its kiss-off chorus, “You never had any fun, so I won’t come around / you never had anyone, so I won’t let you down,” which becomes increasingly infectious as xylophone and layered vocals are slowly added to the piano.Á‚ “Wires” finds Schwartzman attempting a country-infused sound with short strums to a saddle-sway beat.
Whatever your opinions on Jason Schwartzman’s acting career, or even his career with Phantom Planet, Davy draws the attention back to the form that was his first foray into creation (he was a musician years before he was an actor), and what arguably seems his most genuine.