On 28th April 2004 at 15:49 Anonymous 251 wrote...
I bought this album for 99p from Virgin. Bargain.
By Medium 21
It just gets tougher doesn't it? An album that would have been shockingly good three years ago is merely good at today's prices. Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, the Doves and Coldplay have already done the rich velvet 21st century emotional outburst thing and Medium21 have to live with being compared with killer forebears (even on their own website).
Production values are way up there. All the instruments sound like the jumbo size versions and the voice is rich with reverberation and resonance. John Clough really does have a distinctive, flexible and passionate voice. It's not hard to hear why Simon Williams of Fierce Panda would want to have abandoned his usual one night stand approach and make a longer term commitment to this project.
There are 13 short tracks, each built from different parts of an architecturally enormous battery of textures, tones and rhythms. A straight listen through leaves me with a bloated Christmas pudding kind of ringing in the cranial spaces. Prodigious is too mean a word for it. The album is double extra whopper with side orders of whatever you can think of. While I catch my breath I think you just ought to go and buy it. There's plenty there to keep you interested and entertained.
For one, there's a monumentally stupid geetar solo line in "By My Side" which neatly self destructs the otherwise Linkous alt country direction it had been going in. It could be a genius moment, it could be cringe of the album. You decide. And, as the song fades out (are you listening?) there's a Bowie/Ronson inspired vocal harmony thing.
From there (still with me?) we're into Mercury Rev in a big way with "Black and White Summer", featuring great string parts and melodramatic vocal flourishes a la Scott Walker. Great stuff. But whose stuff?
How about back tracking to the throbbing intro of "Junctions in Our Sleep", diving onward to the Kurt Wagner falsetto and melodically extended delights of "Albert Ross" (worst pun in a pop title ever?) or rushing to the end of "We Were the Ones" which combines Sigur (never mind Albert) Ros with Sparklehorse. Can you see what it is yet?
I still can't decide. Somehow it's a magnificent leap for an English band to be genuinely clever and unapologetically musical. Somehow it's disappointing to hear the partially digested influences so closely referenced. But if it is decision making time, I'd say keep this and chuck out the Badly Drawn Boy. I'd rather have gilt on the gingerbread than undercooked pudding any day. I have a feeling that I'm going to be playing this a lot more, and stumbling into more and more blissful moments.