First Listen: Darrin Bradbury’s Artvertisement
I’ve been a big fan of Darrin Bradbury’s ever since a friend took me to see him at The Basement in the summer of 2018. I walked in and the first thing I heard was: “Our love is like the meth lab in your mother’s basement…” I was hooked.
He of course was performing “True Love,” from his 2016 debut record Elmwood Park: A Slightly Melodic Audiobook, and I spent the rest of the show standing at the back, clutching my beer, nerding out at his wordsmithery and marveling at his soothing delivery of some dark, deeply funny lyrics.
When “Artvertisement” dropped a few weeks ago, I was stoked. It was recorded here in Nashville at Trace Horse Studio, “sometime between a devastating tornado and a global pandemic” according to his Bandcamp page. I.e., it was recorded in 2020, The Year of the Dumpster Fire and the pursuit of closed-doors hedonism, the kind he describes in “Pizza and Drugs.” Set to a mournful synthesizer with very chill melodies, it’s not unreasonable to read this song as a kind of satire of a Smiths ballad. Morrisey begged for some kind of heart wrenching existential connection but Darrin Bradbury is forthright in his extremely relatable pursuit of pizza, drugs and Sunday morning love.
The video is a slow-motion unveiling of Bradbury’s head, as he’s covered by pizza and little red and white capsules, bathed in a soft pink glow. The pills and pizza are sucked upward until we’re left with Darrin Bradbury’s head and shoulders, closely framed by the edges of the screen – a familiar view of our fellow humans, these days.
Bradbury’s head features prominently on his video for “Exile on Myrtle Beach” as well. He’s wearing a captain’s hat, surrounded by an unnaturally blue sky, sand, and teeny palm trees, only viewable from the neck-up like some kind of benevolent lord of beach kitsch a la Zordon from Power Rangers (I dated myself and that’s ok!). He sings of Myrtle Beach as a scuzzy afterlife, or spiritual refuge, for folks like Elvis, Andy Kaufman, Richard Pryor, and the protagonist of the song who made a wrong turn on his way from Albuquerque after getting busted for stealing hubcaps off a Pontiac.
In a slight twist, “Busted World” offers a slow-pan of Darrin Bradbury’s full body, though it eventually lands on his head, in a 1990s Magnavox TV, set against footage from a sunny suburban TN thoroughfare. The character that Bradbury embodies in the video, one who threw his lover off a tilt-a-whirl, stands in his bathrobe on his front lawn giving a dead-pan delivery of the song lyrics. He looks like a guy who might say something if your dog befouled his lawn, not because he’s squeamish and/or a cat person, but because of your inadvertent encroachment on his property, however minor. His indignation is evident as he sings, “the whole thing is a joke and the joke is on you.”
Darrin Bradbury has a Tuesday night residency at Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge in Madison, TN. Go see him spin some brilliant yarns, in full view.