Disaffected Prep

Monday, September 5, 2011


Dave Kusworth is Cooler Than You

Dave Kusworth

My friend and bandmate Mike has been instrumental in the development of my rock 'n roll knowledge. He was the first person to introduce me to Johnny Thunders, Jesse Malin and Paul Westerberg's solo stuff. Mike's kinda like that cooler older brother with that killer vinyl collection and who'll let you constantly bum his menthols and never give you shit about about it.

Another one of those bands he introduced me to was the Jacobites, led by Nikki Sudden and Dave Kusworth, who tragically wrote the best rock music in the vein of the Faces, the Stones and Neil Young ten years after those bands enjoyed the apex of their commercial success with a general audience.

Dave Kusworth (left) and Nikki Sudden (RIP Nikki)

I was immediately hooked on Kusworth's songs and especially his look. He just looked so fucking cool in that strange paradoxical melding of devil-may-care attitude with heart-on-the-sleeve romanticism. Here's AllMusic describing Kusworth's solo release, Wives, Weddings and Roses: A tear-stained meeting of Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory," the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," and Neil Young's "Down by the River" wrapped in scarves, bound up in leather pants, and shrouded by cigarette smoke.


Kusworth is influenced by Keith Richards in his looks as well as the music he creates, no doubt. In fact I've seen some pictures of Kusworth on the web mistakenly tagged as Keith Richards. That said, Kusworth lands more solidly on the "tragic Byronic romantic hero" end of the rock spectrum. How tragically under appreciated is Kusworth? Dude doesn't even have a Wikipedia page.

Can't remember where I got this - if it's your pic let me know

A major component to Kusworth's look are his myriad of scarves that he wraps around his head (Lord Byron rocked head scarves too). Here's an email conversation between Mike and I on the subject of Kusworth's scarves:
Dan: Where do you think Kusworth gets all his scarves from?
Mike: You can get that type of scarf from girls you've had meaningful but doomed relationships with, so that every time you wear it, you can still smell her perfume and remember the time you got stuck in a downpour walking with her by the old church yard.
Dan: Haha, the line is so thin between Romantics and Goths. If it were midnight at the church graveyard it would be Goth.
Mike: Yeah this happens definitely during the day. The streets at night are no place for a British dandy.
Dan: ...carrying a copy of Rimbauld's collected poems.
Mike: ...while mentally comparing love and flowers
Dan: ...while holding an umbrella to shield you from the sun so as not to alter your visage's deathly pallor
Mike: Haha, I bet he was terrible at sports
Dan: Exactly, in high school instead of playing sports he wrote poetry underneath the bleachers while smoking clove cigarettes, pining after the popular girls in English class he couldn't muster the courage to talk to.   

Awesome photo of Kusworth (right) from this Flickr page

Of course though, image is nothing without good music to back it up. This is one of Kusworth's more recent tunes, "It Comes and it Goes." There's barely 100 views of this video. That's criminal! It's one of the best rock songs I've ever listened to!

It's acoustic and electric; heartfelt and cocky; loving and forlorn; new yet timeless. In other words, it's a great rock 'n roll song.

Here's another from the Jacobites era with Nikki Sudden:

"So she waits there on the stairs at four o'clock / I'll buy her some roses but I'm scared of what it costs / And then she promises she'll buy me everything / but all I want for her is to pin her heart to me"

Isn't that what the best songs and poems are about, whether it's Andrew Marvell or Keith Richards writing them? Wanting someone to pin their heart to you, to tether their dreams to your own?

I think so.

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Liking this music, surprised I hadn't heard of them before... Reminds me most of The Only Ones/Peter Perrett.
Between Cotton Mather and the Jacobites (I've Had Pretty Good Luck with Bands Named After Historical Footnotes)

I found out about the Jacobites in a totally Raccoon-Culture sorta way; lazy sunday, Robespierre shattered jaw after talking himself to death but couldn't so they did it for him. I was having a dinner party, Out of cutlery - no problem, Cecile's bringing some knives.

I was 18 and doing the modern punch-card: installing computers in buildings; drinking wages and walking ten blocks everyday from Courant to Stuy Town. Was looking for new music... Obsessed with Robespierre that one day in that sort of flight of vacuity acuity where you'd wonder what would it be like to command the fledgling rebel France. Thrust from thinker to key player in the toughest chess game played for years between siblings, no wonder they wanted him out and no wonder he lost his head. Prussia's coming in and coming down. He was the bad guy in Danton, he made terror a capital noun and punishment. Why'd he have a velvet basement?

For the longest time I assumed the Jacobites were the Jacobins until I realized my stupid mistake.

Had a Paisley Underground feel if it wasn't for the acoustic guitars and the harmonica. Don't know why I always put them with the Close Lobsters in my mind - I guess they fell into the jangle pop, but who didn't get lumped in that silly sorta genre in the 80s. Nikki Sudden death. He's gonna set ya free when the rain comes. David Kusworth is forgotten now, though. He poured his soul into acetate and does it rot there now or do those wonderful elegiac vocal lines on Every Girl and When the Rain Comes scoop down every now then to lift them up into somebody's pantheon? Why do you play your instrument?

Some people say it's not to prove anything, not to make money. Others don't. Others call themselves Song'n'dancemen. Did Mr. Bojangles die at the end of the song or was it just his dog? If the Shaggs got infamous why can't you? The Jacobites didn't. Personal, accessible pop... trials and tribulations, all those breakdowns and breakthroughs but myth, my love, is kind. Van Gogh/John Keats narrative is real as the men with orange shovels coming down to break the rock. Unappreciated art becomes found and loved. Beale St. Shieks wasn't appreciated in his time but Robespierre's Velvet Basement makes me an atheist in all this romantic platitudes dribbled out from fools into idiots like a mouth into river that'll capsize ya piece by piece until the last piece of wood goes to the ocean and dolphins plunge bottomward to find the light, but how else could it be, y'know? Huh. Cotton Mather got a good write up in pilgrim times.

So I liked the album as it was - a catchy mope-rock jangly oddity with a lot of filler, but a few gems I've kept in rotation for years - but Dan changed the album for me.

What buzzed in it changed slightly

Big Store
When the Rain Comes From
Every Girl
Before I Die
Country Girl
Pin Your Heart To Me
Road of Broken Dreams


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