Darrin Bradbury Gets Straight to the Point on ‘Artvertisement’
There’s an old maxim that reads something like, “The more planned you are, the more spontaneous you can be.” What can seem like off-the-cuff brilliance is often rooted in untold preparation, and Darrin Bradbury’s new album, Artvertisement, feels like it may well be an example of this.
If you’re new to Bradbury’s world, the soundtrack feels like a pleasant potion of Craig Finn (the main ingredient), The Menzingers, Randy Newman, and The Styrenes with an occasional dash of punk ethos. These are two-minute, (seemingly) stream-of-consciousness notices, musical quick hits whose deliveries range from urgent to playful to earnest.
Like Bradbury’s previous work, the cultural witticisms come quickly and often — like listening to some Ted Lasso dialogue — and serve as the album’s substance. It’s what likely defines Bradbury, if anything, the very brand about/against which he writes in the title track. “Artvertisement! We put your brand and their brand together,” he sing-shouts on the frenetic track.
Throughout Artvertisement, Bradbury doesn’t pull any punches, including those that land on his own body. He takes aim at true love and the music industry, corporate ladders and the meaning of life. Rather than hit pieces, however, they ultimately come across as frustrated ends of an ongoing search, honest musings as warning signs so others aren’t wasting time heading down the same paths.
In a conversation with God in “Busted World,” Bradbury sings, “The whole thing’s a joke and the joke’s on you.” In “15 Shovels,” the protagonist gives up trying to uncover what he thought he saw “because nothing round here really matters anyhow.” Even in the hope of a shared meaningful moment, such as on “Deanna, Deanna,” Bradbury hopes to connect only to then say, ‘I can find my way home / And we’ll both laugh a little in a way that feels like crying.”
If that sounds morose, well, lyrically it is, but the brevity of most tracks and the smart melodic approach provide a necessary balance or buffer — or both. Somehow these songs position Bradbury as a sort of occasional underdog, an artist for whom you’re rooting to find something light and lasting.
It’s not that all of Artvertisement is steeped in some depressive turn. As mentioned earlier, Bradbury’s work has a way of seeing to the center of things — of self and society — and trust is earned quickly despite the fleeting nature of his songs.