DAVID BRIDIE – Succumb
September 10, 2008 | Author: Greg Phillips
David Bridie is a survivor. He has been able to carve out a music career in Australia for over two and half decades without ever having to compromise his integrity. His songwriting talent and musicianship has consistently impressed, whether it be with world music pioneers Not Drowning Waving, the eclectic My Friend the Chocolate Cake or his acclaimed film and TV soundtrack work. He is passionate about music, Australia, its people and nearby island neighbours. In short, he cares about humanity and building better community, the important things we often neglect. David has just released his third solo album. It’s called ‘Succumb’, and it’s yet another mature, quality release well worth investigating.
While containing Bridie’s trademark sonic exotica, ‘Succumb’ may also surprise long time fans. The opening track ‘So Many Lies’ reveals a different David Bridie, one which utilises a more direct rock approach. A full bodied Telecaster lopes Texas-style into the verse. The chorus then gives way to a distorted guitar solo, something you’d be struggling to find on any other Bridie disc. David called on long time friend Phil Wales, who he describes as ‘one of the most under rated guitar players in Australia’, to deliver the swampy licks. The title track ‘Succumb’ is as close to pure pop as Bridie will ever get. That and track three, ‘Going Out With the Enemy’ benefit from a huge production sound bordering on Phil Spector proportions. “We overdubbed and we overdubbed,” said Bridie in explanation of the jubilant results they achieved with those songs. It’s the sound of an artist reinventing himself, pushing his own boundaries, driven by a fear of becoming stagnant. The track ‘Swirl’ is more familiar fare, harking back to the days of Not Drowning, Waving. A programmed drum and bass sequence motors along building momentum as it goes. It’s no surprise to discover it’s an older song, written in the company of fellow NDW member John Phillips while working on the ill fated ‘Dumb’ project.
Also included on Bridie’s latest soundscape you’ll find a children’s choir from the Spensley Street Primary School (featuring his daughter), PNG highland trumpets, garamut drums, the sound of insects, running water, spoken word, real strings, and orchestra samples among the swag of other textures and layers. His work has always been rich with sonic content and as proficient as he is in the production chair, is still wise enough to seek external counsel as to whether he’s overindulged filling space with sound.
“You’re always going to be too close to it to really know. But I have been doing this for a long time now and have a fair idea of what works. A lot of the time it’s about taking away things rather than adding. You sometimes need an impartial pair of ears, particularly with the mixing and the sound levels. They might seem right to you, but that might be because somewhere in the back of your head you are hearing them the way they should be. There are a couple of people whose opinions I trust. I always get them to have a listen. Sometimes you need a little time away from it too, just to get some perspective.”
Having built such a grand sound on this album, Bridie is now in the process of deconstructing it all to play live. At a recent Melbourne gig he was able to employ a brass section to replicate more accurately some of the new material, but for the upcoming tour things need to be stripped back. However David is not a fan of the artificial brass sounds most keyboards have to offer. “Sure, we’ll use keyboards to replicate it, but not necessarily the brass sounds, just recreating that same big space and there are other ways of doing that.”
‘Succumb’ radiates optimism, illustrated quite clearly in the big production and heartfelt lyrics. “This year is better than last year, I’ve got a good feeling about it all,” he sings in reference to the end of 12 years of conservative government in Australia which he vehemently opposed. Bridie has always worn his political heart on his sleeve, always asking questions and prodding our conscience. I wondered if in a commercial music world, where social comment was not a priority, he felt an obligation to keep the flames burning with each release?
“I don’t sit down and say, ‘I don’t think I have a social commentary song yet, I’d better write one’. If the world was hunky dory, I wouldn’t need to comment, but patently it’s not. I write about what I am passionate about and that can be politics, but it can also be about love or whatever. I try not to be polemic. The best art commentates. That’s what it is supposed to do. As musicians we tend to travel the world and we see things, and we have a different perspective that hopefully can be heard.”
If you were to choose one word that encapsulates Bridie’s approach to his art, it would be collaboration. Not only has he always chosen to share his creativity with large ensembles such as NDW and Chocolate Cake, but he’s also been keen to engage with musicians from different cultural backgrounds. Close to his heart are the friendships forged with musicians from Papua New Guinea such as George Telek and drummer Airi Ingram. Like many musicians from his area, Ingram, who appears on ‘Succumb’, has a percussive flair that Bridie believes is unique in the music world. “It’s hard to put into words, but their drummers in particular come up with very different drum fill choices than a western drummer would.”
Like many of the artists interviewed in this issue of the magazine, Bridie is baffled by the automatic imposition of use by dates on Australian artists once they become established acts.
“The Industry places more importance on a 22 year old than a 46 year old which is weird,” laments Bridie. “I just hope that people who are into this kind of music have the opportunity to hear it. That’s all you can ask for.”