It’s strange how an episode in our lives can sneak through every stream that comes through the speakers. It’s the moment every record-digger looks for: something that appeals to the emotions and captures “that moment in time” — the perfect soundtrack. For me, David Thomas Broughton’s The Complete Guide to Insufficiency was just that. It created a euphoric sense of dark optimism — the kind of feeling that would take place in a funeral-home visitation, a feeling of being connected with certain people for just a short time and the sense of hope that comes out of something that has no hope at all. At times, this album is hectic and brash; at others, it plays the role of a sensual caretaker.
Broughton recorded this album in one take in a church hall: one man, his acoustic guitar and a natural knack for creation that comes along once in a golden age. And it never ceases to amaze me what an artist can create when taking the minimalist approach. The same redundant chord patterns always seem to offer something different when a new voice presents them. The five-track album doesn’t take a breather throughout its thirty-nine minutes. It continues on with abrupt transitions, conceptual loops and a voice so granular and fragile that it’s easy to see why many listeners have an ambivalent take on his vocal styling. His voice rings like that of Antony, of Antony and the Johnsons, but without the finesse, a voice in the center of heaven and hell — a source of both good and evil.
The album’s lyrical matter takes on subjects that have been reiterated in music since the beginning of music itself — death, love and sex — but Broughton does it better than others. At times he can be reminiscent of Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison, the way you can feel the sentiment through the voice of the beholder. The ballad of an unknown soldier, “Unmarked Grave,” is quite possibly the most accessible effort on the album due to its unadulterated, haunting portrayal of the pain that comes out of a war loss. Broughton has the propensity to write about topics in ways that most artists couldn’t dream of.
When you’re in dire need of a friend, David Thomas Broughton’s album is one to yank off the shelf. Sometimes the only friend that can say the right words is an album that speaks nothing but the truth.
David Thomas Broughton on Plug Research’s Web site