There is a theory in social psychology that suggests that first impressions aren’t as important as you might think; the deepest and most long-lasting friendships are often formed between people who initially don’t get along. The supposition is that if you have to work at it, if you have to dig a little deeper to find something likeable about a person, then the friendship becomes less superficial, less disposable and more concrete. Now, I don’t know if the same is true for music but for Mr. David Viner’s sake I sincerely hope so. Because my first impressions of this album weren’t good. In fact my first instinct was to find Mr. Viner, nail him to his guitar, place him in a sack and drown him in a river.
So no, I didn’t like This Boy Don’t Care. Initially I found it twee, boring and a bit of a mongrel, unsure what it wanted to be and falling uncomfortably between stools. But slowly my homicidal urges began to pass. Because I started hearing something distinctive, something pleasingly eccentric and, as the sleeve notes suggest, something with soul; a mutt for sure, but one with big mournful eyes, a waggy tail and enough character that you want to take it home from the pound.
Fostered by the Detroit community with a backing band consisting of several Soledad Brothers and production by friend to the White Stripes Liam Watson, you may expect This Boy Don’t Care to be another addition to the garage-rock ranks, another foot soldier in the new-rock revolution, but it isn’t. Viner is a throwback to an age of singer-storytellers, a troubled troubadour telling the world of his problems. All hail the leader of the new-minstrel revolution, as absolutely no one will be calling it.
Mr. David Viner has got several points in his favour: he’s an accomplished guitarist, a roguish vocalist and a skilful lyricist. And when the combination of my-woman-dun-me-wrong blues and a typically British dry-wit and cynicism works, it really works: “Seven Years” and “Please Think Of Me” are lovely, simple melancholy laments and “This Boy Don’t Care” is a great vitriolic, post break-up track. It’s only the songs bearing a more honky-tonk, countrified feel that don’t really capture the imagination.
So it took a little while, but this album has really grown on me. The cyclic nature of music would hint that it was only a matter of time before someone started pretending to be a delta bluesman from the 1920s, but I don’t think anyone thought the artist leading that charge would be a 24-year-old from London. Even so, don’t let that put you off; This Boy Don’t Care is a bizarrely endearing album…eventually.