According to the CD spine and John Dufilho’s record label, Glurp, his debut solo recording is self-titled. However, the front cover reads: “I remain, as always, a rabble rouser from the mountains.” This could be mistaken for the title, or even as fact. But as far as I know, the prolific songwriter hails from Texas’ fair city of Dallas, not the mountains. And he seems to be more of a cunning wit than a rabble rouser, though there’s no denying the humor that Dufilho injects in his songs with The Deathray Davies, or the vibrant and upbeat good times they project at live shows. And one might even chuckle at the photo on the back cover of Dufilho’s new record, depicting him holding a lightbulb over his own head.
Rabble rouser, prankster or just plain clever, Dufilho is mostly a supremely talented singer-songwriter, and his new album was not only all written and performed by him, but self-produced and mixed as well. And if you really want to get down to it, all five Deathray Davies albums were essentially solo recordings as well. Does this guy never sleep? Glurp records seems to think not.
From a musical perspective, Dufilho’s new album, at times, could be mistaken for a Deathray Davies album. Since Dufilho essentially is The Deathray Davies, that can only be expected. But here, Dufilho isn’t so much concerned with writing crunchy power pop tunes, and instead, focuses on subdued, brief and altogether wonderful pop songs. “What Are You Waiting For?” is the most Davies-ish of the batch, with “Now I’m a Stick Figure” and “Paper Hats and Campfire Hands” not too far behind.
Aside from a few charged-up rockers, however, the album is more geared toward the middle of the volume knob. The album starts off with the intimate, hushed and appropriately titled “I’m Gonna Stay Under These Covers Today.” And after a more amped-up and orchestrated intro, “Nobody’s Right – Nobody’s Wrong” becomes a quiet, acoustic track. As the album progresses, however, the songs become more interesting and varied. “Check the Engine” is built on ominous piano and string harmonies, Dufilho’s static buried voice sounding something like Eels frontman E, moaning “You try to picture me then/I’m not any different now/It’s just older skin,” not unlike E’s recent transformation to aging hermit.
“Nate and Gray’s Theme” makes for a fun bit of surf-garage boppiness, Dufilho repeating the lines “I won’t take a bath/I’m dirty and I like it that way.” And “I’m Outside” is just the climactic anthem that a subtler album such as this truly needs to come full circle. That Dufilho’s first full-length album is a sonic joy shouldn’t come as a surprise, because, well, it’s really his sixth. And he’s supposedly at work on another one, this time with lots of guests, including Ben Kweller, Rhett Miller of the Old 97s and Robert Schneider from the Apples in Stereo. Maybe this guy really doesn’t sleep.
The Deathray Davies – The Kick and the Snare
Eels – Souljacker
¡All Time Quarterback! – All Time Quarterback
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.