The day Jeff Buckley died marked the beginning of the search for a male singer-songwriter who could take his place. The ’90s were curiously devoid of any such icon; if you weren’t a woman, you were undoubtedly in a band. Buckley was the shining hope and critical darling of a generation that both longed for its Dylan and reveled in its loss of Cobain; by the end of the decade, though, what we got was Ricky Martin. That’s not to say we didn’t get what we asked for; a hollow (and far more transparent) version of George Michael was what the doctor prescribed for the Grunge hangover. The daunting task of fulfilling Buckley’s deficient legacy, though, has yet to be attained. (Elliott Smith is too demure; Rufus Wainwright, too virtuous.) Of course, Do It Yourself poster boy David Garza seems an unlikely hopeful.
Garza’s major label debut won the singer critical accolades and a healthy (albeit tiny) fanbase, but, thanks to an ever-slippery market, his new album, Overdub, could lift Garza out of the bittersweet innocence of obscurity. The alpine heights of “God’s Hands” and refined falsetto of “Too Much” recall Buckley but also, at times, Michael Hutchence. The set’s most distinct tracks, however, are those in which Garza is sole creator, relying on drum machines rather than studio musicians (“Drone,” “Let Me”). The album’s lead single, “Say Baby,” is sonically and thematically similar to Ani DiFranco’s “32 Flavors,” lamenting on Garza’s own swan dive into Big Business: “Soul is a four letter word.” Unfortunately, it’s not the defiantly hook-laden “Say Baby” that will break him at radio, but rather, tracks like “Alone” and “Keep On Crying” (which features post-Alt Rock survivor Juliana Hatfield). Garza’s unfettered pop sensibility and oh-so-ubiquitous lyrics might just give him the edge he needs to break into the mainstream.