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Buy Stuart Davis' 'The Late Stuart Davis.'

Buy Stuart Davis' 'Nomen Est Numen.'

Buy Stuart Davis' 'Kid Mystic.'

Buy Stuart Davis' 'Bright Apocalypse.'

Buy Stuart Davis' 'self-untitled.'

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Stuart's silver scream doesn't really come from beyond the grave.

Getting Late

Stuart Davis breathes life into acoustic rock on his not-so-posthumous new live album

By Sarah Quelland

LATELY, I'VE BEEN NOTICING the unfortunate trend of boring guys playing boring songs on their boring acoustic guitars. John Mayer, anyone? Duncan Sheik? These guys and their ilk are cropping up everywhere. For years, Minnesota native and one-time Palo Alto resident Stuart Davis has been taking stages across the country armed only with an acoustic guitar, subversive pop songs and a sharp wit. He has nine full-length albums to his credit, the first of which came out in 1993. To see these very mediocre singer/songwriters getting recognition, while Davis toils away in the acoustic underground, is disappointing, to say the least. To paraphrase a line from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, "When, Lord when? When's gonna be his time?" There is no justice in the music industry.

Davis' latest album, The Late Stuart Davis, once again proves him to be the antithesis of the bland singer/songwriter genre. I'd say seeing the overrated hype and bloated album sales of these frumpy folkies must have Davis turning over in his grave, but despite the album's title, he is very much alive.

Revered in his acoustic circles, the insightful and intelligent Davis is a provocative lyricist, an illuminating vocalist and an overall brilliant mind. Really. Past albums Nomen Est Numen, Kid Mystic, Bright Apocalypse and Self-Titled are testaments to his genius. His sense of humor, controversial ideas and deep spirituality all shine through on The Late Stuart Davis. Recorded live, this album of all-new material (plus a cover of the Talking Heads' "And She Was") may not represent his most remarkable work to date, but it's still light-years beyond most of his contemporaries' abilities.

"Sugar Bullets" hits its target with Davis' radical train of thought: "All I ever wanted was the Buddha without Buddhism / All I ever wanted was just Jesus Christ without the Christians / And all I ever wanted was just peace and love without the pot smoke / And all I ever wanted was just porno flicks without the plot." Davis tells me this song is about moving beyond conceptual crutches (e.g., Buddha without Buddhism) and into the direct experience of the mystery that unfolds through the cycle of human love, sex, death and birth. He explains that the fun, fluffy lyrics that start the song ("All I ever wanted was to get laid in a haunted house / All I ever wanted was to punch out Mickey Mouse") are a kind of bait to get people to listen, but that the heart of the song lies in the bridge: "Baby, we're skin piñatas stuffed with plasma / Aren't we? / Sweet stigmatas stain the mattress / Aren't we? / Kundalini meets karate / Knocks me out of my own body."

Davis also brings his unique perspective to "Penguins," spinning wry humor into the tale of a man forced to play straight while watching his closeted gay lover marry a woman. On "Grace," he imagines God disguised as a drunk woman who lives inside his body.

When debuting "Windmills and Wheatfields" in 2000 at Espresso Garden & Cafe, Davis said at first he thought the song sucked, but later decided it was "delightfully perverse." Seedy and dark, the song (recorded for the first time on this album) explores the masquerade of longings between two people who live on opposite sides of the world. As Davis explains, "What these people think they want--their supposed fetishes and fantasies--are actually decoys for very simple, peaceful experiences."

Other album highlights include "Anaesthesia Necrophilia," "Chow Down" and "8 Days in the Lotus." Visit www.stuartdavis.com.

HOT TOPIC: Larry Trujillo has announced that Plant 51 will reopen on March 1 under the new name the Blank Club. The club's live-music format will remain unchanged. ... Meanwhile, Stikmon has revealed that he has a new venue called the Earache My Eye Performance Art Center set to open in San Jose by April 20. We'll have more on that soon. ... CueTopia Billiard Cafe celebrates its grand opening this weekend (Feb. 7-8) at 4700 Almaden Expwy. in south San Jose at the former home of Diamond Billiards. With a comfortable, cafe-style elegance, the new billiard hall boasts 25 regulation-sized pool tables and a menu of entrees, desserts, espresso, beer and wine. Visit www.cuetopia.net. ... Insolence hits the Pound in San Francisco this Sunday (Feb. 9) with Bionic Jive, Drist, Zeromind and Love Infinity.


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From the February 6-12, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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