The Daylight Hours
How To Make a Mess Of Things
David Adedokun is an anomaly, but don’t tell him that–he might notice. A knotty-haired black man, he looks more likely to be fronting a reggae or progressive rap act than either his former hard-rocking ensemble Courage Riley or the more subdued singer-songwriter tones of his latest effort, The Daylight Hours.
After the breakup of Courage Riley a few years ago, Adedokun kept a fairly low profile but referred on occasion to a new batch of songs and a new recording project in the works since 2006.
Two years in the making, How To Make a Mess Of Things isn’t a grand statement or a life-changing epic on the Radiohead scale, but it is a thoroughly satisfying album with songs that get under your skin, whatever color it happens to be.
The closest musical reference point would have to be Jeffrey Gaines, due to the similar dichotomy of a black man singing what’s normally considered the kind of music made by self-absorbed, good-looking but whiny white guys. For a more well-known comparison, see David Bazan, Bright Eyes, or even Dashboard Confessional.
However one chooses to categorize or otherwise place The Daylight Hours into a box, the one thing that can’t be neatly wrapped up is the kind of raw-nerve emotion that Adedokun has injected into the songs.
“Truth About Girls,” puts forth Addedokun’s mission statement as it applies to relationships: “Don’t take the poison yet, cause once it’s in you it stays there.” He’s referring to guys getting interested in girls, and as far as Adedokun’s concerned there doesn’t seem to be much positive in the outcome of that interest.
“Dear John Reply,” is one of those “letter” songs, but the recipient ultimately resists the urge to reply in kind to a breakup note. As the narrator goes through what amounts to the various stages of grief, from recognition to anger to acceptance, he writes a one-sentence answer, “This is the day I let you go,” but doesn’t mail it.
The downer spell of the songs is occasionally broken with a more upbeat tune like, “Only One Juliet,” which ramps up the instrumental cadence as it offers a nearly optimistic, yet somewhat unfocused take on the search for love: “A thousand star-crossed Romeos and only one Juliet / What does not kill me or offer me a drink still won’t help me sleep.” The loping, country-rock vibe makes it the most immediately affecting listen here, though anyone wanting only surface-deep songcraft and pretty songs would do well to look elsewhere.
Adedokun is in that unique position that nearly everyone finds themselves in at some point in their lives, past the youthful, optimistic, impressionable years of high school and well into the illusion-shattering arrival of married life, kids, and what passes for reality. Hopefully for his sake, songwriting is a way of escaping those pressures, giving sweet-voiced release to the kind of sentiments expressed in songs such as, “Mr. Someone Else.”
“I want to burn my clothes and drive my car off a cliff and just disappear like a ghost and show back up in a brand new skin, shake your hand like we never met, ‘Hello my name is Mr. Someone Else, someone who hasn’t hurt you yet.”
It’s one of those universal feelings that anyone who has hurt someone they love can identify with, and Adedokun sings it with such pained expressiveness that one can’t help but know that it’s a feeling he’s intimately familiar with, just as most of these songs are delivered with a long-suffering, Job-like voice of experience with emotional struggles.
The question left open is whether or not the characters in these songs have the kind of faith Job possessed in the ultimate outcome–more often than not they’re left hanging after the last verse fades with no indication of a satisfactory denoument.
Regardless of the answers, rarely do questions like these get framed in such painstakingly precise emotional detail. As the title of this disc implies, Adedokun may know how to make a mess of things, but he also has a gift for pouring the results into some heartwrenchingly beautiful songs.