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Reviewed on 24th April 2004.



By Columbia Drive

Na´ve sounding rockers "Columbia Drive" are Newcastle based, with an international tinge in singer Louise Dal's CV.

For Leeds-based audiences they will immediately evoke memories of some of the shakier youngster bands in Bright Young Things, with their primitive grasp of rock aesthetics and their reliance on a lightly qualified female voice that has energy but little command of pitch, tone or dynamics. There's even that early-days decision to shift as often as possible between tempos and styles within the one song. "Bring Me Back" at track 2 is the chief culprit. The paradox is that Louise on guitar, Jonathan Lillie on drums and Stuart Dawson on bass and second guitar are proficient enough technically, and some short sections stand up well.

The basic problem is a failure to create a distinctive sound or write songs with any coherence. There will not be many among us who could listen to this CD all the way through without feeling a bit queasy. Apart from BYT, the other image that comes to mind is the "Rock Band" that occasionally turns up in crap TV drama, where one of the characters straps on a guitar or grabs a mike and magically enthuses the 25 extras writhing about on the set like rejects form Top of The Pops (while, you, cruel muso snob that you are, laugh like a drain at the preposterous impersonation). "Figure This Out" starts with flailing rockness and launches a nearly monotone tune with Louise sounding approximately like Blondie. A big chorus is cranked up in the larynx, but he band fail to shift the levels to carry it. The voice gets exposed and slides off key and the drumming tries to batter things into the clear. It doesn't work. A cute guitar middle eight guitar section introduces an idea that has nothing to do with what went before and fails to connect with anything that follows. The end comes back to the non-riff of the opening. "Bring Me Back" is funk, rock, emo, ballad, and punk by turns. A horrible mish mash of bits. Louise's singing is at its most nasal and vowel-stretchingly uncomfortable. Four half good songs could be rescued fro the bits, with a bit of work by someone who knew what they were doing. "Always Alright" comes over as the best of the bunch. Moody and miserable, it has a pedestrian bass line and a vocal track that is harsher than it needs to be. It gets some good guitar work and stands up as a song that shows Columbia Drive really could be a lot better than this CD suggests.

Sadly, the press blurb accompanying the CD claims that Columbia Drive

"have been compared to a string of string of different bands and solo artists such as 'Jeff Buckley' 'Jimmy Hendrix' and 'The Strokes' because of their melodic songs and heavy riffs. What differentiates 'Columbia Drive' [the blurb continues] is that their melodic songs and heavy riffs are fronted by a female vocalist."

This distinct lack of self-knowledge is at the heart of Columbia Drive's problem. Technically they really aren't as bad as this record makes them sound. But a much stronger steer is needed on song writing, production and promotion.



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