This is a review of "A Failed Attempt At Something Worth Saying" recorded by Ali Whitton and the Broke Record Players. The review was written by John Hepworth in 2008.
What have we got here then? Thoughtful acoustic pop, I’d say, and done to a pretty fair standard - from Whitton’s lyrics sung in his quite striking voice with its often pleading tone, through to arrangements well handled by the Broke Record Players. And there’s just about enough upbeat content to outweigh the album’s glum title, even if plenty still fits the description Ali gave his work a while ago - ‘introspective and tinged with melancholy’. The items offered are twelve songs recorded in 2006, available by download in 2007 and arriving as a CD in 2008. Could vinyl be next - for the perkily-delivered title track to close one side, and ‘ The Gun Goes Bang’ (a bit of low spot) to be skipped at the start of the other?
A Failed Attempt At Something Worth Saying is the debut album not of Ali Whitton, but of Ali Whitton and the Broke Record Players. They’ve grasped how Ali writes in ballad form for what can be a dance-tempo end-product, as in the bouncy opener ‘If It Is So’ which from the outset establishes the ‘I’ viewpoint so characteristic of Ali’s word-crowded writing. Track 2 introduces Naomi Abbt’s viola in ‘Empty Threats And Recurring Themes’ which swings along over the firm drumbeat responsible on some tracks for a one-man-band-ish flavour.
But not in the next one: ‘In My World’ unlovingly addresses a person once most dear, and in doing so prepares the ground for a jealousy ballad in the sweetly-manipulated form of ‘The Cruelty That Becomes You’. Here a meditation upon a lover turns into a curse, acoustic guitar having called the listener to attention before a single word is sung: that’s a technique tinglingly well used in the next piece too, giving some lift to ‘Waiting For The Morning To Come’, a flat-sounding title for a song with an accumulating vocal and smooth shifts between Tim Corbridge’s lap steel and Lee Potter’s electric guitar in the solos.
For ‘The Storm’ Ali again supplies moody acoustic guitar, joined by viola and gently-voiced lyrics until a sudden squall at the half-way mark sends the band into some petulant rock which is soon taken up in the vocals. Foreshadowing a similar more developed creation on a current Ali Whitton EP, this is the album’s most prominent feature, and in a way its conclusion - what follows doing the work of four bonus tracks that begin with the ploddy and joylessly-titled ‘Lost Cause.’
The longish but rather warmer ‘Misery Needs Company’ brings examples of the gear-change from jogging tempo into lively rock outburst. Penultimately ‘The Good Things Are The Enemy’ - a successful reflective number - seems more complex or deeper or more mature than other material on the album. It provides a good atmosphere for the entry of ‘Poet and A Spaceman’ - a quite delightful way to settle matters at the end, and containing a secret ingredient that makes you feel you’ve absorbed more than can have been sent out in a mere 1min57. Its timid brightness shows what might indeed come by a tinge of melancholy, rather than murky daubs from the dark end of the palette.