Like a man out of time, David Duchovny has released an album of mid-tempo, masculine rockers, perfectly in-step with the zeitgeist of of 1997. That was a great year for dudes like Paul Westerberg, Freedy Johnston, Joe Henry, and Pat DiNizio. Those guys put out albums a little too meaty for roots rock, but also too laid-back to be post-punk. They sang about lost girls, young girls, the complaints of almost 40-year-old men, and also other girls. Duchovny was their contemporary, and 1997 was also a great year for The X-Files, so maybe he had a lot of time on-set to dig deep into their CDs.
I really tried not to think about who the artist was as I listened to Every Third Thought (King Baby/GMG) from start to finish. At the outset, it wasn’t too difficult. The first three tracks—”Half Life,” “Every Third Thought,” and “Maybe I Can’t”—are solid. The riffs are sprightly, his singing is tuneful but edgy, and Duchovny really does have an ear for how words should sit on a melody. The lyrics are full of invention, and it’s a strong start. “Half Life” would definitely have made it to a couple of mixtapes I made for girls in college.
I’m sad to report, though, that the middle of the album doesn’t live up to that first impression. Neither Duchovny’s nor his band’s playing is as inventive, and there are a handful of awkward moments when he jams a few too many syllables into a single line. There are parts of “Mo Revised” and “Spiral” that twist when I thought they would turn and I was really intrigued, but most of the middle third is pretty bland.
There’s a bit of improvement near the end with “Jericho” and “Marble Sun,” and the album ends, as all ’90s albums do, with the most downbeat track. It’s a unique accomplishment, actually, that Duchovny sounds so hang-dog on this last track; I almost forgot that he’s rich and famous, and I felt sorry for disliking so much of his record. Alas, the best of these songs are simple fun, long on narrative and clever puns. But taken as a whole, the album not is quite ready for primetime.