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s/t by Black Car

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Reviewed on 1st July 2003.

 
 

s/t

By Black Car

Dan Glendining is a song writer and musician whose previous band Headswim made a little progress into the national consciousness during the 90s. Based in East London, he can sing, write and play intelligently simple pop songs with depth and poise.

This first album for the new project, on Altered States, was maybe a bit indulgent in its conception. The Fran Healy moments, the Chris Martin trembles and the Thom Yorke episodes are almost uncomfortably still there in the generally excellent mix. There's even a Sigur Ros-a-like section in "Promises" at track 9.

It's surely going to be hard to be noticed when the most noticeable thing about you is how startlingly alike you are to several other fine people. But the album begins on an off beat Ben Kweller sort of song that grabs my attention and tickles all the parts I enjoy - some nudging guitar changes, a two part harmony vocal track, a slow burning big guitar crescendo half way in. It's classy stuff. Next up, "Come on Home" is so Thom Yorke on the intro that the only way it got past the producer was the startling shift to a so Travis it's ridiculous chorus. It's lovely.

"100% proof" is indie lo-fi leading into power pop guitar a la Fountains of Wayne, more distinctly Black Car this time though. "You'll Be The End" goes back into Bends-era Radiohead acoustic guitar and stretched vocal intensity, but builds towards a Nashville pedal steel and huge vocal finale. Confused yet?

And so it chops about. There's plenty of engaging and well played, lusciously recorded guitar. Moods shift from quiet introspection to pomp rock thunder in an OK Computer kind of way (Just check out "Count Them On One Hand" and think back to "Paranoid Android"). So it won't work as a "sound of the summer" mood record. It's generally too up and down for that.

The stand out song for me is "St. John" which has a big open Irish feel to it in the Planxty originating Paul Brady style. Very folk song and very stirring. Which is a Good Thing in my books - too few of the current Brits pay attention to their real heritage, wasting their lives on the shrivelled roots of John Lydon and Noel Gallagher. "Shadows" has jangly indie guitar and Reindeer section smoothness in the vocals. "She Makes Me Smile" goes acoustic guitar and rich tenor voice up to a calliope style waltz that could have Mercury Rev in the room. This is production virtuosity, right enough.

Then, with the six minutes of aforementioned "Promises" comes ambient noise and soundscape guitar promising the tragic end of a good weepy film about lower middle class life in London or Edinburgh. But maybe this time, for just once, the production overwhelms the perfect miniature song at its heart. There's even a string section and a small choir. But the song never really justifies the complexity and the structure makes no sense that I can follow. One grand thing after another is what it feels like. Epics are fine - you just need a beginning, a middle and an end and Sigur Ros could easily and profitably have been left out of the plans. The legacy of Radiohead is a bastard.

"Roadtrip" is more like it. The end track, with its Chris Martin vocal tricks is a lovely tune and a simple production that suits it well. The piano sound is rich and simple, the acoustic guitar sounds sweet and the brushed drum fill sits down very nicely. Keyboard additions gradually arrive and lift the mood steadily and gracefully. If this sort of stuff is going to start selling in van loads, then I'll be happy. You can't have too much of a good thing.

 

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