No ( ) Middle Name – No Middle Name (Self Released)
DL/LP (Ltd Edition)
8 / 10
No Middle Name is the lo-fi dream pop solo project from David Bailey of The Title Sequence. Louder Than War’s Nat Lyon reviews his new album.
David Bailey writes cinematic pop music. As No ( ) Middle Name, sound samples from television shows and movies are sprinkled across this self-titled album. The result is very much like channel surfing through a dream.
Bailey is an active writer, and when he had the chance to take over a friend’s studio for seven weeks he took it, even though he only had a couple of new songs sketched out. No Middle Name is the result of an intense challenge for one person to write and record an album in less than two months. Bailey delivers with the self-titled album, No Middle Name.
Admittedly, Bailey often writes music while watching television (which sounds vaguely familiar to comments I’ve heard from others). Spoken word passages sampled from television audio are mapped across soundscapes with precision and agility. Donkey and Owl layer TV voices over classical guitar, while Eggo does the same against a gauzy electronica soundscape. These collages happened early in the process of recording the album- they are whimsical and cynical passages. But No Middle Name is also a pop album, with well-crafted songs, jangly guitars, and anthemic choruses. Any number of the upbeat songs on No Middle Name could find a place as a single, or in a television program: they are catchy, the lyrics often highly ironic, and the hooks are skilfully composed. The influences range from 1960s psychedelia to 90’s pop/post-punk. Feels Like the 90s Again, No Sleep, and From the Barrel of a Loaded Gun are filled with Peter Buck/REM jangle- and seamless transitions. Bailey’s vocals are not overtaxed- he stays within his range and adds great affect through layering. On Another Season, the album single, Lindsay West provided additional vocals- that send the song into serious shoe/dream/gaze territory.
(Photo right by Bob Mazzer) Some of the shorter and less poppy songs on No Middle Name add real interest and depth to the album. Last One To Know It (Alarm Bells) provides a nice, and low-key piece of electronica that reinforces the dreamscape theme. This is very much a sonic album and No Middle Name is precisely composed and performed. The densely layered pop- as well as the sampled compositions showcase Bailey’s creativity, musicianship and DIY engineering. But one of the quietest, and shortest songs on the album, Late Bloomer, turns out to also be one of the strongest. With a sampled intro and very subtle synth bells, the song segues to a solo acoustic guitar and one track of vocals. The song is stark and the torn heart-strings feel genuine.
The seven-week musical challenge that drove No Middle Name nearly took a toll on Bailey and Nick Croft, his partner in The Title Sequence pitched in to help mix several of the tracks. Rory Mansfield contributed writing and performing on No Sleep. In true DIY spirit, Bailey decided to create a video for Another Season. Lacking resources, but endless skills and patience, he immersed himself in YouTube tutorials and crafted a very unpretentious and endearing animated video.
In many respects, No Middle Name was an extremely ambitious undertaking- and David Bailey rose to his self-imposed challenge to produce an album that shows a broad range of influences and creativity. Like the channel hopping references in the opener, Telly, we get to bounce around in the creative universe of No Middle Name for 12 tracks and, remarkably, all of the channels are interesting.