David Terry is Aqueduct or Aqueduct is David Terry, an Oklahoma transplant who now resides in Seattle and has generated a following by opening up for bands such as Modest Mouse and the Flaming Lips. His last album, I Sold Gold was released in 2005 on Barsuk Records and helped to establish Terry in the independent music community with it’s subtle electronic arrangements and retro drum machine led rhythms. That record has possibly the worst cover that I have ever laid eyes on, which in itself signaled an obvious attempt to display, before even hearing a single note, that this was going to be derivative throwback rock. Musically, there were some intriguing things going on, but the listener has to get past the almost unbearable Ben Folds-like vocals and elementary lyrics.
The new record by Aqueduct, Or Give Me Death, has much better artwork; it can even be called surreal with the half skeleten, half female form that graces the cover of the release. The first track, “Lying in the Bed I’ve Made,” begins with a somber acoustic guitar introduction as a sampled voice in the background comes through over the instrument. That is quite nice as a start, but the track suddenly changes to a poppy piano centered tune. The arrangement of the song is still well done as the drumming and piano stream along with a treated early Brian Eno sounding guitar and keyboard accompaniment. The vocals are less annoying than the previous release and the lyrics are slightly improved upon as well. This might be where you should stop paying attention though. The second track, “Living a Lie,” continues with a similar keyboard sound, but features a crunchy digital electric guitar sound that is not at all dissimilar to, “Mr. Brightside,” by The Killers. At this point the record already begins to get tiresome.
For the remainder of the album the mundane vocals and rhyme scheme lyrics continue to wear down the listener. Lines like, “If you’re gonna step up then stand up and do it. If you’re gonna do this, let’s try to get thru it. Come on,” are difficult to listen to more than once. Are these lines a nod to Frankie Goes to Hollywood? We will never know. The vocals are often manipulated with a vocoder effect that comes across like Max Headroom singing keyboard heavy Weezer songs. A couple of the melodies aren’t bad such as the first track, the tenth song, “Wasted Energy” and the the introduction to “Just the Way I Are,” [sic] but even this song turns into a mishmash of Ben Folds meets the Beach Boys with seemingly unending contrived vocals. In fact, much of the vocals on the album sound like they were sung by an unamusing Brian Wilson in hell.
I like the drumming on this record, which is mainly organic this time around, but that is about it. In all honesty I could not listen to this album more than once. The songs are extremely poppy and almost every track sounds like so much other average, emotionless independent rock that is currently around. Terry, like a whole lot of recent groups, relies far too much on trying to be clever, but he doesn’t come across as sharp or humorous, and fails to deliver any true honesty, sincerity or interest in music. Next time let’s just hope that he has the sense not to print his lyrics in the liner notes.