**S W I P E**
MUSIC REVIEW | J*DAVEY
At the Intersection of Styles, Taking Some Songs for a Ride
By JON CARAMANICA
Published: June 10, 2008
In a video clip available on YouTube, a young woman named Briana Cartwright appears on the stage of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” dressed as the host. Ms. DeGeneres had recently been in a car accident and could not perform her signature dance, so she asked her employees to come out and entertain her viewers. For a minute and a half Ms. Cartwright, who was a producer on the show at the time, did just that, all liquid shoulders, slinky hips and high-fives to audience members, then merrily skipped off.
J*Davey, featuring Briana Cartwright, performing on Sunday night at S.O.B.’s.
Outshining Ms. DeGeneres is no small feat, but it is only a small piece of what Ms. Cartwright, who performs under the name Jack Davey, can do. She and the producer Brook D’Leau make up the Los Angeles group J*Davey, and when they came to S.O.B.’s on Sunday night the dancing was of a more risqué sort. Sporting what could only be described as a torrential Mohawk, Ms. Davey was an effortless performer — vocally assured, physically lithe, emotionally raw.
When J*Davey first appeared three years ago, it presaged a revival of interest in the intersections between electro and soul. A widely disseminated demo led to a string of dates opening for Prince and a major-label deal with a division of Warner Brothers. No album arrived, but in the time since, the art-soul singer Santogold has received critical approbation, and Janelle Monáe, an eccentric OutKast affiliate, has been signed by Sean Combs to his Bad Boy Records. Suddenly the landscape for a new-wave-meets-R&B band doesn’t seem so bleak.
This summer, in advance of its major-label debut, J*Davey will release a double EP, “The Beauty in Distortion/The Land of the Lost” (Interdependent), which includes songs from the duo’s demo. Many of the songs are cool exhales, with wry lyrics over bright, poppy arrangements. But the band often idles once it lands on a good groove, leaving the songs to peter out.
Though that complacency threatened a couple of times during Sunday’s show, especially on “Hi Sun,” the band, led by Mr. D’Leau, was much firmer and more dynamic than is heard on record. “Mr. Mister” was muscular and sensual, and “Slooow” was woozy post-disco. Even a cover of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” was aggressive without coming off stern or ironic.
During “Dollar or More,” a brash song about the tensions between art and commerce, Ms. Davey got around to dancing again. And she is not above a bit of titillation. Before she began “No More,” she called a male friend out of the crowd and, as she sang — “I got a feeling that we ain’t just friends no more/You got me feeling like I ain’t got feelings no more” — he began to undress her, pulling off her shorts and shirt to reveal a short, tight black dress.
But she is too cynical and poised to truly give over the upper hand. Still singing, she slipped on a loose tank top over the dress that shouted, in large letters, “Dirty Looks.” And then she instructed just the men in the crowd to sing the song’s chorus back to her, over and over again. And so a chorus of bruised, low voices serenaded her, chanting, “You can have whatever you want/And baby, I don’t even care” — another crowd eating out of the palm of her hand.