By The Sleepy Jackson
The Sleepy Jackson made a critical impact with their 2003 debut Lovers and in the eyes of many this could only ever be a difficult second album by comparison. It is a spectacular failure by the band's PR team in lessening the reputation of main man Luke Steele as a bit of an ego. Having sacked line up after line up Steele finally seems to have settled on just him and long standing drummer Malcolm Clark. You suspect this has more to do with Steele's inability to play the drums than any particular long held loyalty. Steele doesn't help matters, choosing as he does to have Jesus-like images of himself as the album's artwork. That is Jesus with a six pack and surrounded by babes of course. But what of the soundtrack to this ego trip? Well if this is what it takes to make an album this impressive then just let him get on with it. Steele has employed every musician in Sydney to turn virtually the entire album into a symphony. As mentioned, it would have been hard to make another "Lovers" and so instead the tack has been to turn everything into a gliding epic master class in composition. Strings, grand piano, haunting slide guitar solos, choirs of backing, rows of trumpets, chiming acoustic guitars and simple pop-melodies rarely were made to sound so easy. As opener You Needed More kicks in and the strings rise then the game is afoot. It's ironic that fewer members produce a much bigger sound. God Lead Your Soul is pop in wide screen and The Devil Was In My Yard is beautiful and Brian Wilson-esque in its choral backing. At times it feels like Prince writing a alt-pop-country album being produce by Phil Spector and yet bafflingly it works. "I Understand What You Want But I Just Don't Agree" maybe the crown jewel sounding like Kylie with the London Symphony orchestra only with the sickly taste taken out. Even when the backing band is not so plush as on Miles Away the formula still works. This album is a piece of work as opposed to a collection of songs and must be savoured in one laid back sitting to make sense. If this was the difficult second album then what should be expected from those that follow?