Saturday, February 26, 2005

Album Review Compendium (Part 1)

Financially speaking, the Parallax View household budget was dealt something of blow at the beginning of the year when a new back fence needed to be erected after the old one was destroyed by the combination of severe gales and much huffing and puffing from disgruntled Futureheads fans. Not much money in January then for CD purchases, but Dead Kenny did manage to pick up a few decent recent releases via the sales, including Origin Vol 1 the cruelly under-regarded latest album from The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. Popular critical consensus suggests that you only really need to have one TSOOL record in your collection, but that seems overly harsh as in theory the same could be said for so many bands. True, musically they deviate little from their own Swedish version of The Age Of Aquarius circa 1973, but there's some really strong tunes here and particularly impressive is the atmospheric ballad 'Midnight Children' which features a duet with Jane Birkin and is arguably their best song to date. Maybe if they weren't so ugly and hairy they'd be more popular, and they certainly seem bitter about something (or someone) on 'Borderline': 'I thought you were a friend of mine/But you're a waste of time across the borderline/So who do you think you are?/Passing every stopsign to be a star'. Hmm...who could they be singing about, readers?

Also picked up Violent Silences by Rico in the same sale, an apparently troubled production from a young Scottish guy whose mental struggles and having Tricky for a best mate may not necessarily be mutually exclusive issues. Some of the lyrical angst left Dead Kenny a little bemused but there's no doubt that the rawk tunes like 'Dawn Raid'; 'She's My Punk Rock' and 'Garden Man' pack a weighty sonic punch, while the true knockout delivery comes from the Gary Numan collaboration 'Crazier' (a version of which was apparently a minor hit a couple of years back). If the idea of an Andrew WK with brains (Andrew IQ, anyone?) searching for the missing link between Tricky and Nine Inch Nails appeals to you, 'Violent Silences' merits investigation.

If, however, that sounds a little bit too raw and noisy for you at this time of night, Sondre Lerche's dulcet tones on Two Way Monologue may provide a positive step forward from 'Violent Silences'. The Norwegian wunderkind's second album starts with a classical intro (a la Rickie Lee Jones' 'The Magazine') before exploring a variety of moods and pop styles unified by his distinctively mellow voice. There's lots of good stuff here, but my favourite track is the titular tune, a bold and frantic New Wave workout which recalls Elvis Costello and the Attractions in their early '80s pomp. Particularly worth searching out if you enjoy the likes of Ed Harcourt and Brendan Benson, although apparently he can be a bit of a loose cannon live (Dead Kenny will don helmet and dodge the debris when Sondre Lerche-s into Birmingham on March 7). Parallax View is relieved then that Sondre's taking to this singer/songwriting lark, as he's much better at it than he was playing Clint Eastwood's love interest in those dang stupid orangutang movies.

More album reviews to follow after the break.


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