David Emmets,
Controlling the Users
(independent, 2003)

The mysterious David Emmets presented us with his sparse sophomore CD, Controlling the Users in August, 2003. An extensive web search reveals that Emmets is a New York City-based singer-songwriter influenced by Nick Drake and Syd Barrett; some of Drake's discordant tunings can be heard in his melodies while Barrett's darkness tinges the lyrics.

Morbidly lovelorn, the lyrics to each of the short 10 songs speak of lost loves and twisted relationships. "Society" manages to tell an entire love story in a scant 53 seconds while the eerie opening track "It Was You" celebrates redemption through love, then catalogues a descent into hell.

Emmets' unidentifiable accent lends an interesting note to several songs, particularly "I Move My Feet," a short number about reconciling staying true to oneself during conflicting interactions with others, as well as to the ode to the poet/songwriter, "Leonard Cohen." The stories themselves are intriguing, but the overall tone is of self-indulgent despair.

The sole instrument on the disc is a guitar. Some songs groove on just a few notes or chords, and rather than melody, Emmets relies on striking single notes to emphasize his lyrics. As a whole, the songs frequently feel directionless and grating and there is a sense that something is missing -- like a channel on the stereo. The album is self-produced and would likely have benefited from some outside influence, whether it be a guitar solo -- or even a bridge -- or someone to correct the occasional off-tune singing.

by Michelle Doyle
21 April 2007

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