By Rhode Island
Writing a review when as full as I am is proving to be a challenge. Thanks to a beautiful Sunday dinner with the in-laws I'm now at the Homer stage of trying to find some clown trousers up to the task of housing my recently extended tummy dome. This may make the review less entertaining or simply more about the music than previously; let's see.
The album opens with "War in Iran" which chugs along nicely like the belligerent son of Bryan Ferry's "Let's Stick Together" or ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down". On first listen it seems simple enough but it offers new things after a couple of visits. One aspect I like about this as an opener is that it serves as a taster for the range of sounds offered throughout the album; fuzzy guitars, slide, neat drums, rhodes (?) and soft vocals.
Nicotine, alcohol, love, coffee and identity appear in some of the songs and whatever the theme; the songs maintain a pretty positive outlook. "A House" moves along beautifully after the simple vocal//guitar intro and the drums perfectly embellish the pace to a great song and the vocals are at their best here too. "Gouranga" is one of the highlights for me and it wanders around musically and has some excellent moments whereas "Alcoholics" has a spaced-out vibe and a splash of Summer about it.
"I Lost My Mind in the Middle of the Summer" is well crafted and probably my favourite track. It has an air of Supergrass or Bowie; teenage abandonment and carefree kicks wrapped in intelligent music. "Articulation" has a similar wit about it sounding like an early Ben Folds song; with wonderful accompanying guitars that add richness to solid vocals. The Emmerdale interlude was a nice touch on this one - reminding me I'm listening to something local and organic - but a band looking beyond their environment for scope all the same. That's the topic of this song too I reckon; looking as far and wide as you can to find what it is you're actually after or about - not just where and what you are right now.
Aiming to make pop both "strange and conventional in equal measures" say the boys; well I'd say job done. It's probably against the DIY spirit of the album but sharper production would open the songs up more and offer even more texture. Mull Historical Society's "Loss" achieves the same aesthetics but with more layers and I recommend a listen to anyone remotely interested in this style of sound-making. Overall, plenty of the songs have winning elements but not all deliver the full package.
"Shipwreck", the closing track, has a ridiculously promising intro and the particular soundscape I'm referring to is repeated at other points in the song but otherwise it falls short of the brilliant promise it shows. Miles apart and probably unaware of each other - this album will sit nicely on my bowed shelves alongside Possum Dixon, Ben Folds and Motel Motel.
Right then - The clown trousers have been located, my feet up and it's time for a brew - I think I just about have room now.