Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power - Practice In The Milky Way
Ok let’s get straight to the point with Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power. The elephant in the room here is that although everyone must be thinking about but nobody is going to flat out say is "hmmm, doesn’t this sound a hell of a lot like early Captain Beefheart." Various music writers in the press have tried to steer us away from these magic band comparisons by bringing up names such as Tom Waits and Neil Diamond strangely enough but let’s all hold our hands up and let the Trout Mask slip a little, this is Don Van Vliet territory by numbers and brings some wonderful results to the table in the process.
Practice In The Milky Way starts with a spoken word introduction “Have no fear because this is David Cloud delivering to you the story of Siberian hypnotism” before dropping straight into ‘On The Rebound’ a straight ahead boogie rocker that sees a tongue placed firmly in cheek with the refrain of “good loving can be found…on the rebound”.
Throughout this 20 track album (at least he gives you bang for your buck) you sometimes feel that you can see the wires holding everything up and it’s all no more than an elaborate put on by Cloud rather than some genuine eccentricity or free form artistic expression. Tired clichés are broken down and taken back to their most primal origins with tracks like ‘Sky High On My New Bimbo’ and ‘Bring On The Nubiles’ which would push most dyed in the wool blues purist wince at the apparent misogyny of it all (as if someone like Charlie Patton or Robert Johnson weren’t getting smashed on moonshine and whiskey and copping off with every piece of skirt they could find)
The only thing that bothers me about Dave Cloud as a performer and character on stage is the fact that it seems very apparent that this is exactly what it is, a character. Dave Cloud is an old style pantomime villain that appears at the start of the gig and is turned off when the last chord has been strummed. This is where the Don Van Vliet comparisons fall short, as Captain Beefheart was still Captain Beefheart when he woke up, made breakfast or brushed his teeth, it wasn’t a hat he had to wear or persona that needed to be invented to separate the man off stage to the man on stage. He simply was.
Although to be perfectly upfront and possibly sacrilegious to the ‘captain’s’ legacy there is a pile of tracks within this collection from Dave Cloud & the Gospel of Power that I myself would personally play more regularly than 90% of Captain Beefheart’s discography (although that 10% does include the 5 star Safe As Milk mind you). Truly Dave Cloud has found his niche and can string together a great garage rock track.
The album is executed well and chugs along with fuzz guitars, sharp sonic snares and bass lines holding everything together tightly enough for Clouds almost beat poetry and sometimes strangely heartfelt and quite sweet lyrics as heard on the doo wop almost Zappa-like ‘Nudist Camp’, although lets not lead you all up the wrong alleyway here, the Howlin’ Wolf turns of phrase and blues hollers aren’t far away to add some grease and dirt to the mix (as heard on the excellent ‘Razmatazz’)
I refuse to use any Marmite based analogies here as it seems to be the most standard and lazy thing to do recently (I’ve seen it in 5 reviews this month!) The simplest way I can think of describing Dave Cloud as a performer is by drawing your attention to another one. Mark E Smith from The Fall, to some he is a genius, a maverick, someone that doesn't compromise his vision and will not change his viewpoint because of fashion, record company pressure or members of the band themselves leaving or adding their 2 cents. To others he’s a drunken tramp shouting slurred obscenities at the audience who aren’t laughing with him. There’s your choice, which side of the fence do you sit? Great googly moogly!