Featured Music: Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The Undoing of David Wright is ‘designed to be a big “fuck you” to all the people who get up onstage in their jeans, strum their guitars, and sing about how tragic and sensitive they are.’
Scremo Noir

The Undoing of David Wright unfolds shockingly, painstakingly, and, yes, brilliantly.


Though the weather outside may indicate otherwise, we’re heading toward the season of winter solstice, international celebrations of the dead, and more fake blood than you can fill a Gwar show with. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for the Denton-based, self-described “experimental new wave/post-punk trio” known as The Undoing of David Wright. Chatting last Saturday night in their hometown before a headlining gig at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, the boys — Lethal Larz (singer and keyboard programmer Daniel Larsen), the A-Train (guitarist Aaron Marshall), and Shingles English (bassist Shane English) — all professed to love Halloween for its pageantry and mythology. Marshall even told a tale out of school about Larsen, who grew up in tiny Graham, Texas, in a restrictive Church of Christ household where hell was a reality but personal expression was not.

“I heard one year Daniel went as an Indian chief,” Marshall said. “Except his parents made him wear shorts underneath the loin cloth.”

“No Satanic costumes allowed then,” Larsen said, wistfully.

Of the various statements made by the members of The Undoing, this is one of the few that seems somewhat plausible. As for the veracity of other statements — including the contention that Marshall met English while both were living in a tent city outside a Dallas brothel, and that Marshall “accidentally” carved an inverted cross on his chest while onstage at a teen Christian club — readers must use their own bullshit meters to gauge.

A couple of facts are indisputable after a conversation with The Undoing: These guys, all in their early twenties, are unusually well-read and have taken precocious steps toward creating a dodgy, often very funny faux history for the band. It’s part political-aesthetic manifesto and part a call to return pop music to an era of grand illusion. As Larsen put it: “This band is designed to be a big ‘fuck you’ to all the people who get up onstage in their jeans, strum their guitars, and sing about how tragic and sensitive they are.”

That challenge consists of a live performance that is deliberately theatrical, expressionist, and hopefully cathartic for all involved. Dripping with rouge- and mascara-smeared sweat, adorned in gender-bent regalia (from fishnet stockings to cheerleader outfits), lit with sinister shadows and glaring brights, The Undoing of David Wright tends to act, well, possessed during shows. Larsen writhes and keens; Marshall pours out paroxysms of wiry power chords; bassist English swivels and broods. The sound is mammoth yet refined, technically proficient yet emotionally heavy. “I like to think that each song we write gives us a different playground to explore onstage,” Larsen said.

“Usually a violent playground,” Marshall added.

The band’s set is drawn mostly from The Undoing’s debut c.d., Digging With Our Fingers Crossed, a novel-like concept album produced by the pAper chAse’s Jon Congleton that includes dramatic narration (of which narrator Larsen said, “I sound like a teen-age D&D player”) that is based on an allegedly true story of professional grave robbers in 1820s Scotland who began to murder criminals and other “undesirables” to fill a nearby medical school’s demand for corpses.

If it all sounds too scary, too silly, or just plain too much, the members of The Undoing of David Wright admit they’ve already encountered similar reactions from some club honchos. The Undoing guys claim that the Dreamworld Music Complex in Arlington won’t invite them back (a manager reportedly declared their stage show “ridiculous”) and that one club in Dallas’ Deep Ellum was less than appreciative of the amount of fake blood used in the performance. The Undoing considers home turf to be two Denton establishments, Rubber Gloves and Haley’s, although on a just-finished summer tour through the Southwest and up the West Coast, The Undoing guys said they encountered — to their shock, this time — kids who danced and sang along with the grave robber tunes.

For the moment, The Undoing of David Wright is focused on recording its second album with Congleton. This one will not have a single plot line; each song will function as a bit of a short story, the guys said, with the weirdest details of the legend of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis as a unifying theme. Being underwater, Atlantis is not a place where characters bleed very flamboyantly, so The Undoing has already mopped up its penchant for phony blood. Besides, Marshall said, “too many people have come to expect it.”

One question that hangs over any conversation with the band is: Who the hell is David Wright? The band’s web site reads simply, “David Wright does not exist.” But as a kind of symbolic, middlebrow everyman who doesn’t want his art or his entertainment to provoke him in anyway, David Wright is the exact person that Larsen, Marshall, and English are trying to undo. David Wright, Larsen said, “represents the basest of human understanding, a lack of ambition in art and literature and music, and being satisfied with that lack. He could be a preacher in Oklahoma or the third basemen for the Mets or even someone Aaron went to school with.”

Undoing him will require some shock, Marshall said, but the band wants to do it “with some substance.”

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