Staying true to their word, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians are creating a following of rock music purists who aren’t afraid to borrow from the past and re-assemble the present.
Like a faithful architectural expedition, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians have dug up the styles and traditions of rock music’s past, thrown it all together, and created something refreshing and unique in a time of cliched, over-extended rock music. Unlike Oasis, The Verve, and Blur–who all play a role in developing the Davidians “britrock” sound–The Stevenson Ranch Davidians actually sound like something worthwhile, as if rock music’s tumultuous past can actually come together in a beautiful way.
Although the band’s latest, Psalms, Hymns, & Spiritual Songs, has been around for a while now, the band is starting to get some serious buzz. And for good reason; the music on this album is well-crafted and beautifully executed.
Psalms, Hymns, & Spiritual Songs kicks off with the airy dreampop of “Let It All Go,” and singer Dwayne Seagraves urges us to “go on, and let it go,” a spiritual theme urging listeners to an existentialist path to enlightenment that will “save your poor soul.” Musically, “Let It All Go” sets the tone for the rest of the album, and it’s a style reminiscent of ’90′s britrock musicians Oasis with equal parts Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd.
The album continues in that vein, with tracks like “Getting By,” “In Between Everything,” and “What A Wonderful World” displaying a musically mature band that is self-aware of the power of music to move us spiritually and philosophically. Although the band is not afraid to play in a minor key, the music isn’t depressing or self-deprecating like so many other rock bands out there; instead, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians try to tell stories of love and spiritual longing. For example, in “Subliminalover,” Seagraves sings “I never wanted anything / anything but you / When I saw you on the television screen / I wanted to jump right through to you,” suggesting a blurring of reality with a desire to be with someone worth loving.
Songs like “Nothing’s Cliche” also suggest the rejection of modern indie music for the music of the past (“It’s all been done / over and under”). To Seagraves, things may become “trite,” but ultimately, “nothing’s cliche.” This assertion leaves the band open to experimenting with plenty of cliched sounds of the past and make these sounds completely original.
The Stevenson Ranch Davidians keep that vibe going throughout the whole album, and even though the album starts to drag in sections, it picks up toward the end with an excellent finale. “No Tommorow” rips out the e-bow, delay guitar effects, and tambourine for a last hurrah, and Segraves sings “life will go on / with or without you” (a sentiment Bono would sure be proud of) over an Oasis-like guitar riff. There may be plenty of borrowing going on here, but it works.
Like their California counterparts Brian Jonestown Massacre before them, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians are building the mythic status and cult-like following of a band who, fortunately, hasn’t yet led their flock astray. And in a similar way, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians aren’t afraid to borrow heavily from the history books of rock music. We may see much more of this band in years to come.