DBA: Pictures Of You

Stunning concept piece from Geoff Downes and Chris Braide.

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DBA is a collaboration between singer-songwriter/producer Chris Braide and Geoff Downes of Asia and Yes fame. The name initially stood for the Downes Braide Affair but was changed to the Downes Braide Association, presumably so people couldn’t accuse the duo of any romantic hanky-panky. Still, the partnership is a dream come true for Braide, who admits to being hugely influenced by Downes’ past work: “Without Geoff’s wonderfully idiosyncratic playing and gorgeous chord sequences there would be no Video Killed The Radio Star as we know it.” (Downes was half of The Buggles with Trevor Horn, of course.)

Pictures Of You was recorded secretly in Los Angeles: Downes moonlighted during sessions for Yes’s 2011 album Fly From Here; Braide did the same while writing and producing Lana Del Rey and Paloma Faith. The result is an absolutely stunning piece of work.

It’s based around the theme of a fan watching his or her idol fall from grace; a charismatic Marc Bolan-type figure who loses his way in the glare of fame. Beginning with a lengthy piece titled Sunday News – part John Miles, part Gerry Rafferty, part Moody Blues – we learn all about the aforementioned star’s sad decline, his ‘out of control’ antics making the front pages of the weekend scandal sheets. As is to be expected, swathes of multi-layered keyboards are the order of the day.

The use of electronic drums mightn’t be to everyone’s taste, but to these ears they only really jar on Songs That Heal, where the disco-fied beat is somewhat at odds with the flamboyant ivory-tickling. The overall vibe is sombre and reflective, most notably on the title track, a bittersweet tale of hero worship with lyrics that are bound to strike a chord: ‘Riding the bus on Saturday morning, spending my cash on all your tunes’.

The mood of the song is further enhanced by references to ‘open gatefold sleeves’ and the use of the hiss-and-crackle sound of an old vinyl record; a particularly deft touch. Elsewhere, the soaring Radiant Children is probably the most Asia-like of all the tunes; Superfortress somehow manages to be both sparse and pomptastic at the same time; Ride The Waves has ‘heart-rending ballad’ written all over it; and the equally tear-jerking Live For The Moment belies its title by delivering the downbeat message: ‘Let go the past, nothing’s forever, this can never last’.

Summing up the album recently, Chris Braide told Prog: “In a way it sounds like what the 1980 Geoff Downes might have done in 2012”. Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.